What Would Justin Turning 23 Look Like for Me? HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN!!!

Happy Heavenly Birthday—There is no other apropos greeting, right?

What Would  Justin Turning 23 Look Like for Me?

Yesterday the TV screen flashed a 23andMe genetic testing commercial. It only reinforced the inner feelings that I have been carrying heavy in my heart this month because Justin would have turned 23 years old today. So, I asked myself: “What Would Justin Turning 23 Look Like for Me?” People often ask me: “What do you think Justin would look like today? How would he wear his hair? Would he have a mustache or a beard? Where would he be working? What would he be designing? What would he think about the world we live in today?”

Justin, you were our star that was born on Friday, September 13, 1996.  It was our lucky day. Your birth and your life certainly continue to demand all the lights, cameras and action as they were on the first day you were born, and your air-breathing began. You opened your eyes and looked at me. T

Throughout your short 16 years, you continued to breathe life into others. Your little life took shape and you grew physically and your yearning to learn never stopped. You became a master of insight. When you were only 4 years old you asked God: “Help us achieve world peace.”  When you were 9 you wrote a note to Santa Claus: “ All I want for Christmas is World Peace.” You wanted to make this world better and a more inclusive place. You did your part. You have left us simple instructions to live by.

Justin loved planning and celebrating his birthday—and Darrell and I did too! The only time that he got mad was when he turned 13. We gave him a surprise party. He felt bad when he got to school the next day because he was confronted by his peers who were not invited… He did not know what to say when he was confronted so he took it out on me. He was used to going to his friends Sweet 16, Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs and parties.  He had heard that his cousin Taylor (who was his inspiration for a lot of things)  had her own “soul” version of a bat mitzvah and so he talked about wanting a “ Bro Mitzvah”. So that’s exactly what Darrell and I planned for his 13th Surprise party at the Lucky Strike at LA Live. You were surprised Justin and everyone enjoyed bowling, eating, listening to the coolest DJ, great food and dancing. It was fun!

Flashback of Birthday Memories
Taylor and Justin
Justin’s Surprise 13th Birthday Party

Any parent who has lost a child can only begin to even imagine how their child would change physically and mentally over the years. We have to put our imagination into full throttle as our thoughts take off. We can only create in our hearts and minds picture perfect images of what our children would look like. God bless us all as we try and live in this world called life without our children. There are some tough days but the sun does come out. It’s okay to Dare to Dream too!

Some things we can only leave to our imagination.

Justin was in the process of trying to grow his hair out in twists. He had just started shaving but I think today he might be sporting a mustache to mimic his Dad. 

Halloween Costume dressing up like his teacher Mr. Gaston

If he had majored in Architecture, he would be finishing up his 5th year of college.

Cal Poly SLO Architecture Camp
Cal Poly Architecture Camp

If he had majored in Technical Theater design, he might be creating a set for the next Broadway show in NYC?

Wesleyan College Technical Theatre Design Summer Program Justin’s Set and Design

But, he also could have changed his major to whatever he wanted.

I also know that as often as possible Justin would have been assisting the underserved or those whose lives have been ravaged from the aftermath of pain and suffering or natural disasters.  He would be speaking his truth, standing on the right side of democracy and carrying all of the “C”eeds of Peace” (Compassion, Courage, Commitment, Conflict Resolution, Community) and doing his best to make the world a better place.

Our DNA indeed tells the story of how you’re connected to populations around the world.

Justin was proud of his heritage and his multicultural aunts, uncles and cousins and his wide array of friends from all walks of life, culture and religions.

Ironically, today my brother Martel sent us his results from his genetic testing. Marty as I call him, love for his nephew Justin is literally shown as a tatoo on his arm. The tatoo is of Justin’s actual signature.

Uncle Marty’s Personal and Loving Tatoo
Justin and Uncle Marty

We are  Sub-Saharan African, European, East Asian & Native American. From Darrell’s test results he is Sub Saharan African, English and Native American. So, combining these makes Justin carry a little bit of everyone in his ancestry. He was proud of who he was. He loved being an African American. Accepting others despite their differences should be simple.

Thanks to Father Leo LaRocca the children in Uganda know about Justin
Beautiful Children of Uganda

Words Matter so I will leave this Birthday Post dedication with Justin’s words and the words of others:  

Jeanne M. Huybrecht’s, head of Harvard-Westlake schools, wrote in an email on the day Justin died…

“It is impossible for me to summarize all that Justin was in just a few sentences,”

“Scholar, athlete, singer, actor, ebullient child, he was an extraordinary young man by any measure.”

My words to Justin…

Justin you were born to fly. You were a young renaissance man on a mission who was a Reflective Humanitarian ,with a Copious Personality and infectious smile, Who Created Voraciously, Who Gave Love Naturally, With Heart Filled with Life.

Justin loved the poet Langston Hughes and I think some of his brilliance channeled through Justin… Justin felt he was the “darkest brother” in many environments. Yet that did not stop him…


I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.


I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”



They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

In Justin’s own words when he described himself in 6 words:

 “Darkest in Water, Brightest on Stage”

Justin’s Poem he wrote 3 weeks before he died for English homework. Darrell and I did not see it until months later.

After Langston Hughes”
 Theme for English III

By: Justin Eugene Carr

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.

And let that page come out of you— Then it will be true”

I am an only child.

Not one of three, 

Just me.

I go to a school where I feel like a fly in a bowl of milk. 


Walking down halls where I am one of three… 

Or at least one of the few with dark skin like me.

The kinks in my hair and the dark skin I wear connects me to the trailblazers 

Who struggled to clear paths in order to make my journey easier.

As I walk through the white halls with the white walls,

I see the footsteps of Martin, Malcolm, and Coretta before me.

Their pain and suffering endured just so I can be me,


In my classroom,

I don’t sit in the back waiting to be called on

Because the sea of seats are all available to me.

It’s hard for me to imagine

Being stationed in the back just like my mother and father were, 

Where they couldn’t even see,
that they were lacking opportunity.

I turn on the TV to see faces with brown tones

Sing through microphones,

Not of yesterday’s sorrows,

As the wounds have healed leaving scars of remembrance

Then I look back at me and what do I see? 

Not a rapper or a ball player,

But a boy with dreams.




So, for me, if Justin were here we would of course celebrated him in some form or fashion today– wherever in the world he may have been. I would hope that he was happy, taking care of himself and others, thriving in his own way, doing his best and being comfortable in his own skin. I know that he still would be so much taller than me, his smile would still be beautiful, I would welcome dancing with him in the kitchen and I would continue to let him be and he would roll his eyes at me and tell me to calm down!. That is Justin Turning 23 Would Look Like for Me…

 Justin even though you finished your life here on earth at the young age of 16 but we will honor and remember you all the days of our life.  

Justin’s Artwork from 4th grade

Justin, You are beautiful. You were a true American. He always said that people are really connected and we are all family!

Happy 23rdBirthday, Honey!

I love you more and your Dad aka “ Darnel” loves you always. We miss you .

Dad’s favorite place to sneak a meal
Birthday Celebrations
My Baby
Father and Son
Justin helping to build a home in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

32 thoughts on “What Would Justin Turning 23 Look Like for Me? HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN!!!”

  1. Such love and beauty were your words expressing your love for your son Justin. I am thankful to have known him. He was truly an exceptional young person. I have some treasured memories of Justin, you and Darrel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about his special day.

    Raymond Bell

  2. Susan,
    thanks for sharing these endearing words on Justin’s 23rd birthday. One thing for sure, he would have been as handsome as he was tall and as awesome as he was talented. I truly miss being in his magnificence presence. Given all that Justin accomplished, and all the passion he possessed at the tender age of 16, I can only image that he would have been a force of nature in any space that he chose to devote his energy, as he already was in academia, on stage and in the arts, in the
    water, and in articulating sound arguments to captive audiences.

  3. Dear Susan,
    Than you for sharing your lovely tribute to your amazing Justin.
    He truly was a special child, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to know him. I love the pictures, especially the collage showing his face at different stages of his life. You and Darrell are always in my heart and prayers.

  4. Dear Susan,
    This is such a touching and beautiful tribute to your amazing Justin. I love the pictures, especially the collage showing his face at different ages. You and Darrell will always be in my heart and prayers. I appreciate your sharing with me.

  5. Justin was so special but then look at his parents. What would he be like at 23 years? There is no guessing at this. Look at what he accomplished and the people that he touched in the short time that he was here. 23 years would be even more magnificent.

  6. Dear Justin, happy birthday, dear boy. We miss you so much. I have your painting on my living room wall and your drawing on the classroom wall. You are never forgotten!

  7. I’ll never forget the day Daryl came up to my desk at Citrus College so happy and proud to show me the driver license with the picture of Justin. He was truly a God send with a purpose in life. Although, taken too soon he did more than some that live a lifetime. Your testimony to your son shows all the love he gave you and Daryl in the short time he was here. Life is so fragile and we must embrace and World Peace Starts at Home.
    Happy Birthday Justin.
    Mary Garcia

  8. I’ll never forget the day Daryl came up to my desk at Citrus College so happy and proud to show me the driver license with the picture of Justin. He was truly a God send with a purpose in life. Although, taken too soon he did more than some that live a lifetime. Your testimony to your son shows all the love he gave you and Daryl in the short time he was here. Life is so fragile and we must embrace and World Peace Starts at Home.
    Mary Garcia

  9. Hugs to Justin’s awesome parents for continuing to share the sweet spirit of Justin, which are always reminders to be more loving and peaceful in our actions.

  10. I have never seen or read a more beautiful tribute to one’s child as you have for Justin who still lives in your hearts at age 23.
    Thanks for sharing your unconditional love!

  11. I can always feel Justin’s hug saying “Hi Mrs Klein” with warmth and joy – how we all miss his smile. I too wonder what he would be like at 23 – definitely a millennial beard with those beautiful eyes just above. He had so much to give and we will keep his love in our hearts – love to you and Darrell.

  12. Susan — Justin truly is your son. Your passion and compassion, your eloquence and ability to communicate your feelings, and your commitment to shine and make the world a better place are all extraordinary. And Darrel’s love and strength shine through. Thank you once again for sharing Justin’s humanity with us.

  13. It is an honor to celebrate Justin’s 23rd birthday through your words and Darrell’s pictures. As I read tears flowed again for not only your loss of your amazing son, but for the world’s loss of a leader — a true peace keeper and healer of hearts.

  14. I’m still learning about an extraordinary young man whom I never got the honor to meet., . Justin Carr. I am forever grateful for ‘Auntie and Uncle Darrel’ being apart of my life. I can only imagine …. N’Jhari

  15. I would like to say I can’t stand it. But I must, because you must.
    Such bravery, such beauty, such resilience. How you find the strength, gives the rest of us strength. Love to you.

  16. Blessed to have shared time with all of you.
    Justin would be as beautiful today as yesterday
    Love shines through.
    Not sure about the mustache. That might have been a distraction!
    Happy Heavenly Birthday Justin! Miss you.
    Sending our love and wishes for peace in our world.
    With gratitude
    Ali Joe and Andrea

  17. I can’t begin to imagine your loss. I wish I had met him. He sounds like an amazing human being full of talent and promise . Ty for sharing him with your words

  18. Wow!!!! ❤ Just when I think I’ve learned all about ya’lls baby…… you share more that I didn’t know. As I’ve always said, “Justin was wise beyond his years!” Thanks for sharing all the beautiful pictures…….and your beautiful words of love! RIP Justin! ❤

  19. Beautiful tribute to beautiful Justin. I’ll cherish your words and fabulous photos my darling Susan as I cherished your son.Happy BirthdayJustin our precious dear heart! Our beloved Justin l shall love you alway, Auntie Moira.

  20. Susan,

    First I want to say Happy Birthday to Justin ♥️. Wow ! 23 our baby would have been , so tall, handsome, talented and kind. He definitely made our outlook on the world so different than today. He gave us inspiration in his short time on this earth. I loved your tribute to Justin’s 23rd Birthday. That was heart felt as always. Love to you and Darryl on this day ♥️

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