'Walking in Amanda's Shoes'

Story and photos
by Callie Sterling

Alana Garbacz is keeping her sister’s legacy alive and reminding many that the bond between sisters can’t easily be broken.

Alana created a group that participates in a monthly activity to honor her sister, Amanda Garbacz. Walking in Amanda’s Shoes was founded to encourage others to branch out from their usual routine, all while celebrating life.

“She was a beautiful soul, and I hope I make her proud with every adventure,” Alana said.

Amanda passed away at the age of 24, on May 11 last year following the delivery of a healthy baby girl, Lillian Amanda.

Each month on the 11th, Alana chooses one event that correlates with who Amanda was. Activities have ranged from geocaching, group painting, looking at Christmas lights, traveling to Nashville and more. When the group went geocaching they left small brochures that told others of Amanda’s story and how she lived her life with passion, like it was an adventure.

“I think Amanda would be proud that I am stepping outside of my comfort zone,” Alana said. “She always told me about all the new things she was trying, from herbal teas I had never heard of, to mountain biking. I told her she was crazy, but now I understand. I understand the feeling you get when you let go and live. Amanda had a passion for life.”  

Alana spends time with Lillian on a regular basis and constantly reminds Lillian of Amanda. She shows Lillian photos of her mother, and as she grows she wants to teach Lillian who Amanda was. She will make sure Lillian knows that she was very loved by her mom.

“I wish I could have told my sister how she was going to be an amazing mother,” Alana said. “Amanda loved with all she had, but she loved Lillian more than anything.”    

In addition to founding Walking in Amanda’s Shoes, Alana began taking yoga classes. Yoga was a large part of Amanda’s life.

“Amanda had a passion for yoga, especially hot yoga,” Alana said. “I started yoga four weeks after my sister passed, and I was instantly hooked. Ever since then, my passion has grown stronger. It not only is an amazing workout but a great spiritual and emotional release.”

Through yoga, Alana has met new friends, which have helped her cope since losing her sister.

“The most profound statement I have received through yoga was from Stacey Faught, the owner of Blue Yoga Nyla,” Alana said. “After a practice I was extremely emotional and just broke down. She came to me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘Alana, I can take it, your mat can take it, God can take it. Leave it all on your mat.’ I take this everywhere I go in life. I have learned that sometimes you have to break down to build yourself back up.”

Alana has shown strength, maturity and is gaining wisdom since her sister’s passing. Alana is loving life and making every day an adventure. She plans to continue Walking in Amanda’s Shoes events indefinitely.

“Amanda had a passion for life. I never thought I could have this kind of passion, but I found it. I have a passion for living every day like my sister would have. Amanda loved the life she lived, and now I’m enjoying every second of walking in her shoes.”