My “brother” ( from another mother) (who is my older brothers best friend and his wife) asked if I could help them out for a few days with their kids, while the wife had to deal with out -of -state family matters. I agreed. Like most caring adults, when I got to their home, I quickly learned my way around the neighborhood, put my cell phone contact info the kids phones, gave them spare change, introduced myself to their coaches and teachers, started my day very early to help them out of bed, to school, to camp, to practice, to the bus, prepared their meals and gave them advise on homework and test prep. At the end of the day, I was eager to ask each of them the ultimate question (that I asked Justin daily) which was “How was your day?” Then, I got the usual answer, that Justin often gave me, most of the time, and that was “Good.”

Yesterday, out of blue, Chauncey, the 10 year old boy, asked me, “ Aunt Susan, Do you think about Justin?” I looked at him with a smile and said, “EVERYDAY, and usually all day. I will never FORGET Justin.” Then he asked: “ Can I ask you ANY question about Justin?” I said, “ABSOLUTELY, and as often as you want.” With the biggest Kool Aid smile he said “OK, I will, thank you very much!”

Today, Chauncey asked: “What did you usually fix Justin to eat? I told him that Justin loved all types of foods and I fixed him everything I could possibly think of and I encouraged him to try a variety of foods. So, Chauncey ( who only likes limited foods) you should try different things you may like them, just like Justin did.” He frowned at me and said: MAYBE!

Then I said, “Chauncey, Do you remember that you did not like to go to swimming lessons when you were 6 years old? In the beginning, you cried during every lesson. Then he said proudly, “Well, that was THEN, and NOW, I love to swim and my favorite stroke is

“the B U T T E R F L Y ; just like Justin’s!” Then he proceeded to show-and -tell-me how the dolphin kick supports the butterfly stroke. Watching his animated jesters made me smile.

Offering support to my extended family, if only for a few days, made me instantly fall back into the routine l longed for daily during this past year. Not only did I quickly realize how much I missed being a mom-Justin’s Mom, but I was also forced to get a glimpse back into juggling family matters and multi-tasking. This family living lifestyle albeit brief helped me appreciate the gift that I was given to be Justin’s Mom. I did my best and my best was good enough. Justin may be out of sight, but forgetting him will never be part of my life equation.

Subsequently, I was prompted to look up info on the forget-me-not flower AFTER I titled this short blog today. Really, see what it means, I can’t make this up:


According to Wikipedia, there is a story behind the name of this flower (Forget Me Not) . Following is a quotation from Wikipedia:
Charming, diminutive forget-me-nots are delicate plants with beautiful little blue flowers. While they do come in pinks and whites, it’s the blues that people find most delightful. Forget-me-nots are excellent in pots, as edgings, and planted close as a groundcover. These short-lived plants, mostly treated as biennials, reseed generously.

In a German legend, God named all the plants when a tiny unnamed one cried out, “Forget-me-not, O Lord!” God replied, “That shall be your name.”[4] Another legend tells when the Creator thought he had finished giving the flowers their colors, he heard one whisper “Forget me not!” There was nothing left but a very small amount of blue, but the forget-me-not was delighted to wear such a light blue shade.
Henry IV adopted the flower as his symbol during his exile in 1398, and retained the symbol upon his return to England the following year.[4]
In 15th-century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers. Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of a river. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of the weight of his armour he fell into the river. As he was drowning he threw the posy to his loved one and shouted “forget me not”. It was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.”

Like the Forget-me not flower, Justin was charming, and beautiful and he loved blue. And, boy was he short lived but he gave generously while he graced this earth. During my next trip to get flowers for Justin’s garden, I will certainly purchase some “forget me nots” in honor of my true blue -baby- boy Justin. Like my friend Bill said “ Justin was “An extended hand, a warm embrace, a presence so rare. I wish I could have bottled it to save for many lifetimes.” You got that right Bill, oh so I wish so too.

Justin was a forget-me-not for sure!!!!
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February 26, 2014
1. The name Julia means honest, benevolent, brilliant, inventive, full of high inspirations, courageous, honest, determined, original and creative.
2. Julia also is an orange and black American butterfly with long narrow forewings, found chiefly in tropical regions
3. Julia’s favorite color was purple
1. The name Justin has various meanings, which include; just or true, extremely generous, sympathetic, interested in art, always happy and lucky and a leader, especially for a cause.
2. Justin’s favorite swim stroke was the butterfly
3. Justin’s favorite color was turquoise
I will never forget this day in 2010 when Justin was in 8th grade and he called me from school crying hysterically. He said that his friend Julia Siegler got hit by cars while crossing Sunset trying to catch a school bus, and unfortunately had died.  As soon as I got to campus, I was told by the Administration that Justin was passing out tissue to comfort his school community.  He told me that Julia was so nice, a fantastic dancer, and a great artist, and she was in fact the first person that he met on his first day at school in 7th grade. Like most of his classmates and school community, Justin was upset and sad for many months missing his friend.
A few weeks later, Justin told me it was time for me to make a visit to the Siegler’s home. I did not know the family at all, but I called and spoke to Jody, Julia’s Mom, and told her that Justin insisted that I make arrangements to meet her….  Subsequently, a few days later I visited their home and spent some time with her. In the back of my mind, I could not begin to imagine what she was feeling from the aftermath of this horrific lost.  But I witnessed first hand, the effects of a broken heart from a loss of a child. For the next three years I stayed in touch with Jody by writing her emails and calling her on occasion just to check in on her.
Fast forward to almost three years to the day; Jody sees the headline story on the news about the untimely sudden passing of Justin.  She was in shock, like most.  The very next day, she showed up on my doorstop and handed me a ceramic “J” letter with a bundle of folded papers wrapped in a purple ribbon (Purple was Julia’s favorite color).  She embraced me and said.  “ I went to my art storage to find this letter “J “that Julia made in 8thgrade. I also attached copies of all of your comforting emails that you affectionately wrote to me over the past three years.  Hopefully, Julia was the first one to greet Justin as he entered through Heaven’s gate.”   We embraced, cried and still to this day, we share the fond memories of our babies as we struggle to get through each day.
I just went to my drawer to pull out this piece of art where I placed it a year ago.  To my surprise, I just noticed that the colors that Julia used include Justin’s infamous turquoise.   I have not had the strength to read the letters yet that I wrote to my grieving friend Jody over the years.  In time, I will read them.  But for now, I am grateful that Justin though it was the right thing for me to do. Even though I did know Jody before her loss, I was glad that I took the time to reach out to her, because silent grief is the worst. I somehow found the words.
I have to believe that Julia and Justin are two beautiful butterflies dancing in the highest part of Heaven watching over all of us.
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Today, I heard some of Justin’s friends sing beautiful songs for a Benefit.  All the songs brought tears to my eyes because I could only imagine Justin singing with them those sweet sounds of music.  They sang two Beatle Songs” “Let it Be” and “Yesterday” OMG I so wish for the yesteryears when all my troubles seem so far away….


I wrote this in the Fall of 2013



Last week, a college friend who I believe meant well and who has been in “text contact” with me for the past six months saw me face to face. Prior to the encounter, he asked the host: When will Susan BE better? She told me she told him; never…

So, when I saw him, I truly believe he was really trying earnestly to lighten the air with small talk, and to make the conversation with the group feel like we were not all recovering from a disaster. However, after dinner when I said I had to leave, I watched him posture himself up enough nerve and say affectionately “ Hey Toler, when are you and Darrell going to take some vacation time?” From the side of my eyes I noticed my other two friends look at me in horror because they saw me go into my “Mama Bear” protection stance and turn my head/neck in a way akin to like the girl in the “Exorcist” movie. I said sternly, “I have been on an unplanned vacation for the past six months and I could have taken 2 trips around the world, but no trip is going to keep me from how I feel about the loss of Justin.”

I’m sure that the masses are hopeful that once we get through the “firsts” of the year following this horrific loss, then things will get back to normal. Well, all I said to close the deal of the conversation was “Let me Be!” If this happened to your son, (he has only one child) would you be ready to go on a vacation? I really did not mean to be so blunt, but my guard was down and I had to be honest. You can’t put a timeline on recovering from grief and everyone is different. For me, I still need lots of time to just BE.

When I got into the car, guess what was playing on the radio? The Beatles song “ Let it Be”. I have not heard that song in years.

“Let It Be”

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Ah let it be, yeah let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Yeah let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah let it be
Oh there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah let it be
Oh there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Ah let it be, yeah let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

For some reason, I could not stop thinking about that conversation with my friend so, today I watched the CBS segment on “ Justin’s Story again and I saw where I painfully said something like “All we wanted for Justin Carr World-Peace was to “LET HIM BE!”

Who knows what Justin could have been had he was given the natural extension on his life. People often asked; what did he like the most? Well, Justin had a lot of passions and he really never said, “All he wanted to be is ___________________. He loved to learn, draw, to help, to teach, to laugh, sing, dance, act, history, architecture, math, theatre, design, good food and happiness etc…

His friend Mintis
shared many classes with Justin over the years and most recently she had three classes with him including Art. This past May she put it poignantly to us when she wrote “ I have been hearing about Justin’s plans and triumphs for the past five years, and although he was always planning to be the man he wanted TO BE, he did not know he already was him”. I can smile knowing that Darrell and I always encouraged him TO DO and TO BE whoever he wanted TO BE.

The H-W students did a wonderful job this past Saturday when they presented art to about 30 kids and tutored 10 in Algebra at the school that Justin adopted to help. The kids felt empowered to express themselves and were proud of their work. After the music played and the chatter stopped, they each got the opportunity to present their work to the group. We were speechless after a 7th grade girl came up and showed her watercolor image. She said proudly “ This is an eye, as you can see, it is shedding tears and crying because she is unique. But, it is ok TO BE unique and she smiled and walked away.

A dear friend Shari Mitchell sent me an email after she read the article about the HW

“Susan, what a wonderful continuation of Justin’s dream!!!

I had a conversation with my physical therapist tonight. He is a 40 plus something single man who I adore. He helps to heal people physically every day. Anyway, I noticed that he looks incredible and he proceeded to tell me why. As a little boy with terrible parents he was not permitted to live his desire to play a musical instrument and/ or to dance. His dad was a football player and would have nothing of it. 10 months ago he started taking piano lessons and ballet classes. (He had never done either!)
Not only is he talented but he feels as if it is healing his terrible childhood.

I told him about you and Darrell and how you not only allowed your son to follow his passions but your nourished them. I just wanted to relay this to you because as extremely unfairly short Justin’s life was it is outstanding that he lived able to follow his dreams.
My friend actually said, teary eyed, if given the choice to live a shorter life able to follow his passions or live his life without he would choose the
first. He also said Pursue your passions. They have never left you.

So to the young and old TO BE OR NOT TO BE? THAT IS THE QUESTION

I’m glad that Mother Mary has come to me speaking words of wisdom Let it be.

Parents Struggle With Sudden Death Of Teen Son Who Collapsed In Harvard-Westlake Pool
An Altadena couple remembered the life and sudden death of their teen son who collapsed in a Harvard-Westlake pool earlier this year. CBS2’s Suraya Fadel reports.
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A Beautiful Poem about Justin from a Beautiful young Girl….

Another gift to cherish…


Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Carr! I am Giselle, Mazelle’s little sister, (we saw each other briefly when you spoke at SDLC in Washington D.C.) and  I wrote this poem right now out of the love and gratitude I feel towards Justin. I did not rearrange the order of the couplets, I just wrote them down as they came.

Giselle Etessami 2/3/14 Personal Poem


I don’t know very much about you

But when I heard you left my world turned askew

I know more of your death than of your life

But your story was a stab in the heart with a knife

Your eyes were black onyx but beneath the sight

Was a glittering light that never shined so bright

You, dear Justin, have inspired me to give

You’ve inspired me to love, even inspired me to live

You’ll never know how many lives you have changed

But between you and me, there was a peace exchanged

I don’t think you knew me, you didn’t know my name

But your passing has altered my spirits all the same

I honor you Justin I hope you know this

I hope you know just how much you are missed

Thank you for living, just you was enough

I look to you as an angel, and this is no bluff

I hear your voice in the acoustics’ strum

I feel your power in the beat of a drum

The light in your eyes is a light that lives on

I see your face in the tears of your mom

I look up to you Justin, you’re my hero

Compared to your wisdom, I am a mere zero

No words can express just how perfect you are

I’ll always think of you when I look up at the stars

You were the best, too good to be true

That’s why G-d decided he needed you

You live on, not in human form

But in the divinity of the celestial storm

You will not be forgotten, this I promise you

I can’t help but hope you smiled as you passed through

On February 22, an angel took flight

And he, with G-d, at short last, reunite.

Thank you and I hope you have a blessed day/week/month/year/life! <3

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