HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN- YOU ARE FOREVER YOUNG!

Well, the spirit has hit me on the eve of Justin’s Birthday, I had to put pen to paper as we celebrate a life we loved and honor and remember the love we lost— our pride and joy—Justin.

It was the 13th of September 1996. This day I always remember.  That was the day that Justin Eugene Carr was born!! Justin would be 22 years old today.  What would he look like?  How tall would he stand? Would he have a mustache like his Dad aka “Darnell” as Justin fondly called him? Would his hair be in the trending broccoli style, mini dreadlocks, big afro or buzz cut? 

MISSING THOSE  SIMPLE THINGS

Where would he be? What would he be doing? One  thing I know for sure is that he should have graduated from college this past June albeit that never happened— along with all those other “ings” like going to the prom with his bestie Chanell, driving, applying to colleges, graduating from high school, going away to college, collaborating, enjoying THAT college experience, working, talking, strategizing, studying, playing, designing, applauding, acting, voting, helping, protesting or arguing for right or arguing with Darrell and me (if we were wrong in his eyes,) drinking libations? – although,  I’m not so sure about that. The few times when he was in the presence of underage drinking he would tell people that he was allergic to alcohol. That stopped all enquires on the spot.  Justin would be encouraging, helping others who are fraught or out of sorts, or just staying in the mix, sitting at our table for shared meals, eating Thai food, playing and engaging with his littlest cousins and surrendering to his older cousins even though he would be looking down on them— he loved that he was the tallest of the cousins.  Justin would be building and creating with his Dad, rolling his eyes at his aunties, telling me  I am Over the Top Olivia (OTTO), shopping with his uncles, dancing, singing, swimming, crying, laughing, loving, grooving to Beyonce marrying, parenting, and of course smiling a whole lot as he was living his best life and of course celebrating many Birthdays in real time.  

Hanging With His Auntie


Spending time with Papa and the Cousins

Dancing and Singing with the little cousins
Hugging his cousin Coco
Easter Partying with his cousins
Styling with his Auntie












Test Driving with Dad

Measuring up to his Big Cousins
Sporting New Shoes that his cool Uncle Martel purchased
Hanging with his cousins Riko and Mako

 

Rolling his eyes before swimming

Justin loved celebrating his birthday. He had surprise parties, family gatherings and so many unique birthday parties themed to whatever occasion was the highlight in his life from Gymboree to Disneyland, slipping  and sliding with his “brothers” Sean and Miles, making volcanos that actually erupted, watching a marionette puppet show in the backyard to sleepovers, bowling, laser tag, sports  themes, magic mountain adventures. He often had two parties. One with his friends and one with family. Once he told Darrell that all he wanted for his birthday was for the family to come over and interface and talk and NOT TURN ON THE TV.  He hated it when the kids, women, and men were all interacting independently.  He wanted everyone to talk to each other without distractions – even though it was FOOTBALL SEASON.  It turned out really well and it was a beautiful gathering. Hours into it, Justin declared it was OK to turn on the TV.  I think he got tired of talking to everyone.

Blowing out Candles
Getting Surprised at his 16th Party With Chanell

Slip & Sliding with Sean and Miles
Slurping down icy’s
Wishing before Blowing






And of course, we never strayed far from our childhood family tradition of being able to have your favorite food and cake on your special day.  He had custom cakes. Justin loved the white on white famous Costco cake, and Violets custom cakes hit Pasadena. He had a swimmers cake and custom cupcakes he designed with Mickey Mouse hats. I even made a volcano cake that actually erupted (with dry ice). Once I made the mistake of putting his basketball ice cream cake in the freezer for so long that we could not cut it.  He said “ Mom it really did not look like a basketball so we don’t need it anymore…




Justin did not really ask for a lot of stuff.  He was grateful for the gifts and he was diligent about handwritten thank you cards for each thing he received.  

Do things get better 5 years later after losing a child?  In all honesty, the answer is No.  Grief is the natural response to a  change in the familiar. There is no timeline or method. What we had as a family, what Justin’s peers lost of having him in their lives on campus or just a phone call, text or Skype away, what a school community had or never had will never be realized beyond his last day on Earth. It was the day everything in the world changed.  Justin was a gift to our family, to his peers, teachers and even strangers. Because of the intermittent touch points,  we receive from people, the ripples of his goodness live on.

So will celebrate forever. Justin still lives with us.  We carry him with us where ever we go. He is in my backpack. People don’t know what we carry.  People carry Justin with them to places he will never go.  His message of world peace has traveled to all 7 continents through JCWWP t-shirts, luggage cards, artwork, and bracelets.

On the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Tanzania with JCWWP tag and his cousins

Some of his friends engraved his initials inside of their class rings, wrote their college essays about him, placed pictures of Justin on their dorm room walls or in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, near Pyramids in Peru or recent in Tanzania. They made bedspreads with the JCWWP logo and even framed the logo on their kitchen walls.  Justin also shows up in his friend’s good deeds when they help others struggling   — in similar ways that Justin would have helped.  And we were beyond thrilled when even during recent graduation ceremonies, his peers added their Justin” isms” on their graduation cap with butterflies, #JCWWP or the peace sign. Some added might and energy to the plight and fight for justice for others during their college days, some changed their majors in favor of what they wanted to be. Some of his friends wrote songs, poems, music, and others continue to put the power to pen,  write, communicate with us through letters, phone calls, thoughts of remembrance, hugs or with words that touched us to the core. One of his friends left her purse in an NYC taxi cab by mistake.  When the next passenger entered she looked in the bag and saw the JCWWP card and contacted me. I figured out who she was and the purse was returned in tack within a matter of hours!

Look at this amazing message that came when I needed it the most. A gift indeed!

So with each butterfly we see in flight dancing and floating in the air we pause for cause because we think of Justin our butterfly swimmer. 

 


These are meaningful gifts and THINGS  we truly love as we honor and remember, our son, your friend, cousin, nephew, student, teammate, classmate or even if you learned about him after he died.  Darrell and I are certainly proud that we allowed Justin to BE all that he wanted to be during his short life– and he was happy doing those things too.  So, parents, I hope you place “happy child” above all things as your children try and are their authentic selves.  Justin  will forever be remembered as he coined his personal phase for the class assignment when he had to describe himself in six words: 

“DARKEST IN THE WATER BRIGHTEST ON STAGE”

                         And for us,  Justin will be Forever Young!

Forever Young

Rod Stewart

May the good Lord be with you down every road you roam.

And may sunshine and happiness surround you when you’re far from home.

And my you grow to be proud, dignified and true.

And do unto others as you’d have done to you.

Be courageous and be brave.

And in my heart, you’ll always stay

Forever young. (Forever young)

Forever young. (Forever young)

May good fortune be with you, may your guiding light be strong,

Build a stairway to heaven with a prince or a vagabond.

And may you never love in vain.

And in my heart, you will remain

Forever young. (Forever young)

Forever young. (Forever young)

Forever young. Forever young

And when you fin’lly fly away, I’ll be hoping that I served you well.

For all the wisdom of a lifetime, no one can ever tell.

But whatever road you choose, I’m right behind you win or lose,

Forever young. (Forever young)

Forever young. (Forever young)

Forever young. Forever young

For forever young

HAPPY 22ND BIRTHDAY JUSTIN

You will be Forever Young and always in our hearts.

Love Mom & Dad

15 thoughts on “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN- YOU ARE FOREVER YOUNG!”

  1. This was absolutely beautiful. I feel like I got to know Justin through your words. What a remarkable young man!
    And I wholeheartedly agree that losing my son has made me realize that above all of the things I thought were important before – my child’s happiness is at the top now more than ever.

  2. Lori here spending a quiet day in Ojai by myself, and having lunch with “you” and Justin, using this peaceful opportunity to fully read and absorb your beautiful words (and photos) of sweet Justin. The only thing I can’t read are the words to “Forever Young” …..no matter how many times I hear that song, it’s like an electric shock and I so know that you know the feeling, holding you in my heart on this glorious day

  3. Dear Susan, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know your son is so precious to you and your family. Reflecting on all those life events that he will never experience and that you don’t get to share is heartbreaking. You keep his memory alive and well! He truly was fortunate to live a happy and special life with such wonderful parents. God bless you and Justin Carr will live forever young in our hearts ♥️

  4. As always, a beautiful sentimental tribute to your darling son. My heart aches every I think of him. Continue your strength as you give others the same to do so. Love to you and Darrell.

  5. Yes. I loved what you wrote.Your basketball cake & the purse left in the NYC cab stories stuck with me. All of the photos with the ings captions were captivating. So full of love. Aptly written Susan about an amazing giant of love, kindness & creative artistry who walked among men. I keep learning about living life from Justin’s example. He set the bar high, extra wide & long keeping us all stretching and reaching to become our best selves & then more. ❤️

  6. Awwww Susan, this is so beautiful! It made me cry. Glad to see that you are writing again. What great memories and photos. Justin was such a beautiful person inside and out. We look forward to the time when we will see Justin again in Paradise. We love you guys!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this, Susan. I was so glad to see Justin’s handsome face again, in all those beautiful pictures. I miss him, too, and often wonder what he would be like today. He is loved and missed.
    xoxoxo from Margot

  8. What a beautiful testament, your words brought tears to my eyes! I know that you think of Justin every second of every day. He touched so many lives and continues his gift through JCWWP.
    Every time I see a butterfly I think of him and smile!

  9. Oh Susan, that was beautiful. Like your boy. Those lyrics are making me cry, because they capture this day so perfectly, and the way he lived his short life, so perfectly. I think of him everyday. I have experienced losing young souls before. There is never really moving on from that. I only hope I can remember to keep them close in my heart every day, and try and measure up to their example of what it means to make a difference in others lives. As Justin World Peace did.

  10. So lovely, what a light Justin still is! I love reading your post, and looking at all the photos. And I believe I really heard this song and felt the lyrics for the first time today! Happy Birthday, Justin!

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