on this, and every, thanksgiving, i think of the four words that woke me up.

 
 

It’s been years, and I can still feel how it felt to hear the question.

Nine months earlier I had just graduated from college, and moved back into my childhood bedroom, when my mom delivered the news. Her best friend, the woman that helped raised me, had just heard from the doctor – her cancer, dormant for so many years, was back. It was in her lungs and bones this time. And this time, it would prove to be fatal.

Time turns memories into martyrs, I know that. But this woman, this giant of a woman… to say she changed the lives of hundreds is an understatement. There aren’t enough women like her in this world; and yet, there could be a million just like her and it still wouldn’t fill the gap that’s been created in her absence.

We had nine great months with her.

During these nine months, I floated. A more accurate description would be to say I drowned, pulled down by the weight of time passing by. Everyday meant simply one day fewer. I say floated though because, aside from managing a video store and working on a couple corporate videos, I had no real direction in my life.

I just… existed. Barely.

I was lost, confused, and, if I’m being honest, my grief was an excuse to put off planning my future.

Then came Thanksgiving. Before the big house would be filled to the brim with family, friends of family, and friends of friends of family; before the food and laughter and wine; before the announcement that another baby was on his way; there was just the two of us.

There was no pretense to the conversation. No time to waste. She cut to the chase immediately. She had to know – “what are you going to do?”

“Do?”

“With your life.”

I had no idea. There was a video store, a boy, and no real plan for anything else. Instead, I said the words I guess I’d always had tucked away, “I’m going to be a writer.”

“That’s good. Just do something. Do something that matters.”

—-

The next day she was gone. Just like that. We’d known this was coming, and yet it still shocked us. It cut our lives down the middle. Became the “before” and “after.”

Those four words, “do something that matters,” were put on the back burner. They laid dormant for months, as I moved my from parent’s house to my brother’s in a perpetual state of “who gives a shit.” Until finally, one day, the words just came back to me.

“Do something that matters.”

It was a wake up call. A reminder. Life is to be lived, big and with a purpose.

“Do something that matters.”

I have a million great memories with Carmen. Everyone that knew and loved her is lucky enough to be able to say the same thing.

Today though, when I think of all I’m thankful for, I’m always thankful for that moment. That memory.

There aren’t enough words to say how lucky we all were to have her in ours lives. There isn’t enough time with her that would have ever felt like enough.

You may not have known Carmen, but I know she’d want you to take these words to heart. To build something with them. To make them count.

“Do something that matters.”

And for the love of God, put on some lipstick.

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All of my memories with Carmen are great, but there never should have been “one last memory.” Not this soon. To help make sure no one else has to have their “one last memory” before they should, go to www.standup2cancer.com and give what you can. Because fuck you cancer, that’s why.