Tag Archives: Grieving with Gratitude


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? 


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: 


                         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


You will be Forever Young and always in our hearts.

Love Mom & Dad

Halloween’s Past: The Best Halloween Treat

Halloween’s Past: The Best Halloween Treat

Justin wrote this letter in 2004 when he was 8. He and his Dad always loved watching all things Star Wars.

So when Justin was 10,  he decided he wanted to be Mace Windu—the fictional character in the Star Wars franchise, portrayed by actor Samuel L. Jackson.


From Wikipedia

He would not settle for the usual over the counter costume so he commissioned our dear friend Sherrie Brooks (who sews very well) to make his authentic costume- and that she did. He went with her to get the best fabric close enough to the outfit worn by his idol.

He was so happy with Sherri finished product. The last request he had was for his Dad to shave his head bald so he really could look just like Samuel L. Jackson!!!

Justin Carr as Mace Windu Halloween 2010 Costume by Sherrie Brooks Photo by Darrell Carr

Fast forward to February 5, 2013 (2 weeks before Justin died) He and his dear friend Arielle Winfield spearheaded the Harvard Westlake Black Leadership and Cultural Club (BLACC) Event with the surprise guest Samuel L. Jackson. The room buzzed with joy when Samuel took to the stage. His story was profound. He opened up his heart beyond the big screen. He shared that he was a swimmer. His mother made him be on the swim team to keep him out of trouble.  He also wanted to be a marine biologist- just like Jacques-Yves Cousteau he said. Furthermore, he shared that he almost hit rock bottom with his drug consumption—it was from the unconditional love and support from his wife LaTanya that saved his life…

Justin, Arielle and Samuel L. Jackson at the H-W BLACC event 2/3/2013

Justin was so happy of the outcome of the event. It was a huge success.


The night before Justin’s Celebration of his life I looked in my Spam folder.  What a blessing I did because this letter was in it.  It made me smile. It is truly a gift in this circle of life.

See the video of Justin introducing  Samuel L. Jackson

Read the full story

Read Article


See video


This is my story of Halloween Past. Finding these treasures was definitely a treat and worth sharing.

“Just One Little Thing On this Day of Remembrance



During the aftermath of the unimaginable loss of losing our only child—Justin, a very dear friend Lynette, sent me a link to a story titled: How Grieving With Gratitude Changed Everything” from Maria Shriver’s blog: “Architecture of Change”. Reading it changed me… I quickly learned about Kelly Buckley and her movement: “ Just One Little Thing” (JOLT). I read about her unfathomable loss when her son Stephen died unexpectedly.   Despite this horrific loss, Kelly was still able to survive in the midst of misery. She found the lit candle in a room filled with darkness. Kelly has taught me (as I tuck away the pain everywhere I go, this companion and oxygen) how to “grieve with gratitude” and how to look for JOLT blessings every single day. For this, I am forever grateful.

“Just One Little Thing: Finding A Happy Life In An Imperfect World, One Moment At A Time”

The infinite trauma that Darrell and I  have endured has recently catapulted me to a higher understanding of how I am going to live my life in the days and years to come. I can’t imagine living this new life as anyone other than a determined, loving, and accepting mother as it is in sharing my story that I  have emerged with the reborn driving force behind whom I have already started to become. Also, even stronger than my own belief in myself, I have come to experience an indescribable “knowing” within my soul that I have many companions during this difficult journey from my chrysalis – a catalyst moving me toward finding my voice, and my wings, once again.

Justin’s 2nd Grade Butterfly Report Pictures drawn by Justin

Over these past 4 years I have become stronger, braver, more courageous, humble and very grateful. And I know that I am strong enough to take the first steps, brave enough to speak for those who can’t, courageous enough to take a leap of faith during this pivotal moment in my life, humble enough to say a sincere thanks to those for reinforcing my transformational journey by allowing me a chance for discovery of life beyond tragedy, and finding my voice through words so I can help others find theirs.

I will always be Justin’s Mom and Darrell will always be Justin’s Dad. Justin is the gift that keeps on giving.  We miss him every day and we will love and honor him forever with love.

I Gift from Felicia

Darrell & Susan at the American Heart Stroke Ball
Disney Concert Hall


Justin’s work in Kindergarten

Justin Dared to Dream and the H-W “Hairspray” Cast Lived out his Dream

Justin Dared to Dream
And the Cast & Crew of “Hairspray” Lived out his Dream!

There is one thing I want to say again about Justin, and that is that he “dared to dream.” He made a soapbox derby car when he attended a Harvard -Westlake (H-W) Summer Program when he was 10 yrs. old. His designed license plate on the car (in his infamous turquoise and brown colors) was ” Dare 2 Dream” When he ran for student council in the 7th grade, his slogan was ” Vote for Justin Carr and he will drive you in the right direction!” Once again, Justin was able to define his character at such an early age… My baby, my baby… was always fully dressed with his smile…


One of Justin’s dreams was for H-W to produce the Broadway hit “Hairspray” for their Fall Musical. “Hairspray” was an award-winning show that made its way to the big screen. He had to correct a few people who were not familiar with when they called it “ Hair Gel” (lol). It is about a young high school girl who achieves her dream of performing to dance on a TV dance show in Baltimore in the 1960’and how she works to integrate the show in the process. Ever since 2011, Justin dreamed about this show and put his thoughts on paper sketching how it could be done. He would study all of the information that he found on the Internet, watch over and over the DVD’s of the old and new movies, and then he would chat amongst his friends to discuss his proposed cast. He did not officially cast himself and he honestly told me that he did not have to be in it. He said, ” Mom, I could just help design and build the set and help with the choreography, I just want H-W to do it!” I know that just maybe (ha!) He felt he would be a candidate for the role as “Seaweed’. He would often drop hints to the Administrators saying that they should watch this movie, and he even offered up his DVD if necessary. Justin knew that there were enough qualified kids on campus who could take on the roles, but for some reason never thought that they could or would. Subsequently, I recently learned that he would even stop kids while passing them on campus, and ask them if they could sing or dance and then he would take notes. I recently found on his desktop, a piece of paper where he sketched 1960’s hairstyles. It looked like he was thinking about what would be the best styles for the show. Guess what? Justin was spot on again. One of his sketches was identical to the hairstyle that was donned by the character Link (played by Daniel Davila). After the show, Daniel told me that it took him 45 minutes to twirl his front curl for the show.

Last May (2013) when the school announced that they would, in fact, produce “Hairspray” in the fall, I was overcome with emotion because I’m sure you can guess why…. Subsequently, it seemed like every place I looked, I saw Billboards advertising high school and theater company productions of “Hairspray”. My sister even called and told me that “Hairspray” came on TV on Father’s Day. It was everywhere. Each time I saw something related to it, my mind would wonder right back to my last conversation that I had with Justin. He was elated about going to see “Hairspray” at Pasadena City College – and his dear thespian friend Molly was catching the bus home so they could go see her mother Karen’s production. Molly was cast as the lead in the H-W show. Justin thought she could do it, and she did. “Good Golly Miss Molly” was fantastic. What a true testament to her craft!

“Hairspray” opening was last Friday night and I actually felt butterflies in my stomach the whole week prior. The night before, Justin’s classmate Henry Hahn sent me a message with a YouTube video clip and told me he thought I would like to see the hot off the press “Behind the Scenes of Hairspray” video that the students had produced.

After I watched it, I was overwhelmed and floored. Darrell heard my reaction and ran in to see what was wrong. First off, the video was so professionally done. Secondly, you could just tell that the cast members were personally and emotionally invested, and I think they just wanted to be a part of realizing one of Justin’s dreams. Job well-done H – W the filmmakers. Thanks Henry for giving me a heads up. The passions portrayed by the cast in this pre-show video reconfirmed the importance of why Darrell and I needed to attend.

Junior Alexandria Florent beautifully and brilliantly drew this. I later found out that the hand she drew on the cover (holding the hairspray can) was that of Justin’s; so in fact, he did have his hand in the Play! It was an honor that the play also was dedicated to Justin.



img_7183THE SHOW & CAST

The whole cast was great! ” They collectively did their best and their best was good enough.” The set was perfectly simple, the time period outfits were festive and creative, and Justin’s dream of having a multicultural cast was realized. Justin’s “Turquoise” color also frequented the stage beyond the compliment of costumes…

“Hairspray” gents, including Daniel (Link), Angus (Corny) (Donhem) Seaweed, Jacob (Wilbur), Noah (Mr. Pinky) were like the Hardy Boys aiding their damsel in distress 1960’s style. Their outfits were smart and their dance moves were on point and you were able to sing.

“Hairspray” ladies you were festive, colorful and seemed to enjoy all of the dance moves and songs. You know, there were a few hairdos that I think that Justin would have taken issue and he would have helped tighten them up, but I think the hairspray you used did the trick.
For the past 5 years I watched many of this cast grow up on stage, so seeing this last musical was bittersweet. I witnessed many of them perform as early as in the 7th and grade. Justin was taking notes too because he cast them (on his personal list) in the roles they played in this show.

There was Molly (Tracy) who went from being Marty in “Grease” singing ” Freddy My Love” in in 9th Grade to commanding the “Hairspray” company by singing a plethora of songs including “Good Morning Baltimore” and ” I hear the Bells”.

Molly and Justin Rose Bowl Parade 2013


Molly in ” Hairspray”








I first spotted Andrea (Penny) in the 7th grade when she debuted as Prisoner #1 with her line “Yes, Sir” in the play ” The man who came to dinner”. Then she was Justin’s (Bert Healy) backup singer in “Annie” in 8th grade. In “Hairspray”, she was a front-runner and she sang many songs. As I remembered her first line from 5 years ago, I will always remember these two lines in “Hairspray” when the audience roared after she became “hip” and said ” And, Sista’s” and ” Now I’ve tasted chocolate, and I’m never going back!”
Aiyana (Little Inez) was spotted as an orphan in “Annie”. She then commanded the stage during the Choral Solo night in 8th grade when she sang Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Girl put your record on”. In “Hairspray, Little Inez had a big voice and quick dance moves as well!

Justin and Andrea in ” Annie”





















Then there Camelia (Amber) who first turned my head during ” Annie” when she boldly sang ” Hey Hobo man….” mimicking Justin’s solo “You are never fully dressed without a smile”. Justin had coined her as Amber, and she too nailed the “mean girl in town” role.

Camelia in "Annie"
Camelia in “Annie”


Camelia in "Hairspray"
Camelia in “Hairspray”





The new senior on stage was Zita (Motormouth Maybelle). I could feel Zita and the depths of her song ” I know where I’ve been” brought me back to the days when I was planning Justin’s Celebration. Due to Justin’s love of music, I thought that it would be apropos for songs from Broadway musicals to be sung. The only reason that Justin came to H-W was because my dear friend Merle saw him perform as Rafiki in one of Ms. Q’s production of the “Lion King” when he was in the 4th grade. Her daughter Taylor attended H-W and she was very successful and participated in many of the performing arts programs. While we were planning Justin’s Celebration, I asked Taylor if she knew any songs from “Hairspray” and without hesitation, she belted out a few lines of ” I know where I have been” and I said that’s it! Subsequently, she did bring down the house when she sang that song from her heart during his service.

I have to give a shout out to Senior Grace (The Gym Teacher) your buddy Justin was always honest with you. He told you he could always help you out with the singing, but you were truly a better actor and a threat at that! You get “Extra Credit for that!” Good job.

And Junior’s Dora (Edna) and Delilah (Velma), Autumn (Prudy) you owned your roles and we felt your character through your style, dance, and songs. Keep singing for Justin

Going into tonight’s final showing of Hairspray, I expected it to be bittersweet and sad to see everyone emotional and crying during and after the show in memory of you, but instead, it was beautiful to see how much you were able to touch people during your precious time with us. Those tears represented how loved you are by everyone around you and how you made a difference in all of our lives with your signature smile and sass. A cast member and friend of mine would have a wave of emotion come over her whenever Zita gave her amazing rendition of I Know Where I’ve Been and especially embodied this love for you. During the rehearsals leading up the show, whenever Zita sang that number, my friend would grab my arm and hold onto it during the song. At the time, I didn’t know why she was doing it, but on the Friday’s performance, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I found out that was the same song that was sung at your funeral and realized that just hearing it made her emotional and holding my arm was comforting to her. Before the song started in each performance, you could tell that she was trying to control her emotions. She would start to pace nervously across the little space that we have backstage and when the song started she would progressively start to become more and more emotional and start to cry. I would put my hand on her shoulder to comfort her, and she would grab it and squeeze it until the song finished. Just hearing the song made her become so emotional in memory of you. This strong and confident girl was reduced to a ball of emotions just from hearing a song that reminded her of you. The song moved all of the other cast members as well, and there were tears in everyone’s eyes after it finished. You are just that amazing Justin, and we all love you so much. During post-show tonight, your parents were so strong and gave amazing speeches about you and everyone would start crying just from hearing your name in senior speeches. Thank you so much, Mr. and Mrs. Carr. Your dad talked about how at the age of four, you told him that you wanted to achieve world peace, just more testament to the kind of person that you were.
I know it is going to be hard, but I promise you that I’m going to try my best to achieve world peace for you, buddy. Thank you for all that you have done for us and we will carry your memory and spirit with us forever.

So many things tonight reminded me of you. Hairspray, seeing your wonderful mother, walking on the stairs the last time I saw you…I just wanted to let you know how much I miss you. How much we all miss you. While the production tonight was simply incredible, it just wasn’t the same. The sets were there, but you didn’t build them, and there was a Seaweed, but it wasn’t you. It saddens me that life just keeps on going, sometimes seeming like nothing has changed, but to so many of us everything has completely changed. I’m so proud to call so many of the cast of Hairspray my good friends, and I’m so appreciative and lucky to have had a friend in you, too.

Miss you Justin
Love Maddy”

“Susan – I love you so much and I miss Justin for you! I’m happy to have discovered him for HW and appreciate the recognition for playing a part in such a meaningful part of Justin’s life. I love HW too and it made me so happy to finally see a truly diverse cast in an HW production. Hopefully, it won’t be the last and Justin’s legacy for change AND inclusion will live in the HW theater department where it is so greatly needed. Hats off to Pugh and Spears for daring to be different! Like I always told Taylor – everybody is different and different is good! XOXO your BFF Merle”

“Susan Justin’s Love and Spirit Shined all the way through the Show and beamed out of the brilliant kids in the cast!!!! Justin’s voice was heard…. and always will be…. Love always to the beautiful Dreamer Justin…and to you and Darrell!!!! Manette”
Darrell and I attended the opening and closing shows. We got more of a “backstage” tour of how Justin and his peers impacted each other. People who we knew and or whom we did not know told us more stories about Justin and gave us much-needed hugs. I know that we are not the only family dealing with a loss of some sort as well. Of course, it was hard not watching Justin grace the stage. But, seeing the kids did fill up a bit of our void in our hearts. All had tears of joy and sadness, I can’t deny that. The kids said Justin would often assist them rehearsing their lines, sing behind the curtain to boost the chorus when necessary, help with the dance moves to keep everyone in step, make sure that the costumes from head to toe were in order, and make quirky faces throughout most shows and rehearsals. After the show, we spoke (impromptu) to the 70 plus members of the cast and crew. We thanked them for a job well done, and we told them how important it was for them “to be true to yourself, dare to dream, treat people fare, accept people who may think out of the box, and that you are never fully dressed without a smile, so keep smiling for Justin.” I know where Justin has been and what he wanted to achieve in this life. Just wish he was granted more time.
Thank you to the H-W Team of Drama Administrators and to the magnificent cast and crew for accepting the Dare to Realize Justin’s dream. Like Kate Benton (Justin’s MS Dean/Drama told me) “This was indeed the best Thank You/Love Letter that you could have given Justin at this time.

That’s all folks, I’m still emotionally recovering and I’m “good enough” for the moment.

Justin singing Mooning in Grease with Arden

I know where I have been

There’s a light in the darkness
Though the night is black as my skin
There’s a light burning bright
Showing me the way but I know where I’ve been
There’s a cry in the distance
It’s a voice that comes from deep within
There’s a cry asking why
I pray the answer’s up ahead ’cause I know where I’ve been
There’s a road, we’ve been travelin’
Lost so many on the way
But the riches will be plenty
Worth the price we had to pay
There’s a dream in the future
There’s a struggle that we have yet to win
And there’s pride in my heart
‘Cause I know where I’m going yes I do
And I know where I’ve been yeah
There’s a road (there’s a road), we must travel (we must travel)
There’s a promise (there is a promise), we must make (that we must make)
But the riches (oh, but the riches) will be plenty (riches will be plenty, yeah)
Worth the risk (worth the risk) and chances we take
There’s a dream in the future, there’s a struggle that we have yet to win (we have yet to win)
Use that pride (pride) in our hearts (in our hearts)
To lift us up, to tomorrow
‘Cause just to sit still would be a sin
(I know it, I know it
I know where I’m going)
Lord knows I know
Where I’ve been
Oh, when we win
I’ll give thanks to my God
‘Cause I know where I’ve been
Marc Shaiman; Scott Wittman

Peace be with you,





This Little Light of Mine “Happy 20th Bday Justin”

This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let Him Shine

As most of you have witnessed over the past 3.5 years sans Justin, Darrell and I tuck away the pain in our heart—every waking hour—every single day. We cycle through the days, week’s months, holidays and milestones and we hold each memory of our joy with Justin close to our hearts. This will continue for a lifetime and will repeat, day after day, and month after month. So, it’s not unusual that for over a year, I have been cautiously anticipating this day—Justin’s birthday—September 13th. He would have been 20 years old… Justin was and will always be our greatest gift. He is our guiding light!

















Happy 20th Birthday honey!

The other day, I went to my usual nursery—where I am known as the flower lady. Before I got out of the car, I spotted a pot full of flowers that were almost in the shape of a round cake. I knew at that moment that I did not have to look any further. I motioned to the gardener to pick out the two prettiest plants. I asked him: What type of flowers they were. He cheerfully said: “mums.” I thought to myself, how appropriate— because in England “mum” also means mother and we know that “Mother’s knows best” and I will always be “Justin’s Mom aka Mum.”



After he loaded the flowers into my car, I started up the engine. The song blasting over the radio was: “ Tears from Heaven.” I know you all remember that song by Eric Clapton. Well, I don’t have to tell you what I did next … I first wanted to switch stations right away to spare the tears, but then I caught myself as I bravely listened intensely to the words. Subsequently, I let the tears flow. That was a good thing.


Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
‘Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven
Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?
I’ll find my way through night and day
‘Cause I know I just can’t stay here in heaven
Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging, please
Beyond the door, there’s peace I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more tears in heaven…

Written by Eric Patrick Clapton, Will Jennings • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group
Justin was our center.



Justin was our “whole world” in our hands

Justin's friends at School 2013
Justin’s friends at School 2013






Justin had the whole world in his hands

We are so grateful that we have so many people who are wrapping their hands around us. We have learned that there are many things and encounters that help give us hope—hope for a future that includes embracing life again.
So as we celebrate my baby, with the well-received gifts… Don’t just read, take heed following is a life-saving message…



GIFT #1 “The Good Samaritan”

Last year, a brave and determined stranger, Laurel Travis, approached me at a seminar. She said: “ You do not know me, but I know all about your great loss. I work for a Cardiologist and we saw Justin’s Story on television. To spare other families from going through an unimaginable loss of losing a child, I started “Safe Heart Screening ”, a heart screening foundation, in honor of your son. I was dumbfounded. Through Laurel’s dedication, research, and good work, she introduced us to the new state of the art life-saving ECG/EKG machine. It’s a handheld device (blue no doubt) that can identify young athletes who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. “CardeaScreen is a convenient, hand-held electrocardiographic (ECG) device, a diagnostic tool that measures and records the electrical activity of the heart. Specifically attuned to the normal characteristics of the athletic heart, CardeaScreen helps physicians who are conducting Pre-Participation Exams (PPE) identify athletes with abnormal heart conditions who may be at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. CardeaScreen helps identify young athletes who are at risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).”

In hindsight, Darrell and I wished that we had this knowledge in our hands so that we could have possibly known about Justin’s condition and spared his untimely death…

Cardeascreen Machine
CardenScreen Machine







GIFT #2 Save the Date; Save a Life

Justin attended St. Marks School for Kindergarten and he was also an acolyte and in the choir up until 6th grade at the church. They are opening up their doors for this special event.  Thank you.

Justin in his St. Marks Choir uniform
Justin in his St. Marks Choir uniform








Safe heart Screening http://www.safeheartscreening.com
will be doing ECG screenings for girls and boys age 12-25 in honor of Justin. It will be hosted at Saint Marks Episcopal Church in Altadena, CA on Sunday, October 16, 2016, from 10:00 to 4:00 p.m. Please go to the SafeHeart Screening  website to sign up !
The actual test takes about 16 seconds with an allotment of 15 minutes for the process with each person. $25.00 donation for screening.


SMILE Lady Susan (holding the testing machine) & Darrell
SMILE Lady Susan (holding the testing machine) & Darrell

Gift #3 Keep Smiling for Justin

Debra Johnson aka the SMILE Lady is a member of our Community. She knew Justin very well. SMILE is her acronym for Support, Motivate, Invest, Love, and Educate. And Johnson is on a mission, one “to promote all aspects of SMILE and to spread a little joy,” she said. Tune into the Pasadena Community Network Channel 32, Arroyo 32, for more about the heart-testing event. “I want to help your child tap into their inner SMILE and purpose. After all, we were all born to SMILE and we’re all destined to leave this place better than we found it,” Johnson said.

This journey that we are on is sometimes difficult, but as I looked at the homework assignment that Justin did in the 3rd grade tonight,

Justin's 3rd grade Science Project
Justin’s 3rd grade Science Project


I know that I too will continue to transform from a chrysalis and find catalysts that can move me towards finding my voice and wings once again.





Justin's 3rd Grade Butterfly Project
Justin’s 3rd Grade Butterfly Project

Justin is my butterfly. I will never forget him. I know he wants me to accept his metamorphosis and to find new ways to live. As we emerge from the darkness and seek inner peace, I will continue to try and love this life, and live bravely, faithfully and as cheerfully as I can with Justin—our guiding light you along the way.



“This little light of mine, I’m going to let him shine, let him shine let him shine…”









Miss you always and love you forever!! Happy Heavenly Birthday Justin.






Love, OTTO

A envelope Justin addressed to me...HIs OTTO
An envelope Justin addressed to me…His OTTO






Visit our website to make a donation to help kids or to learn more about Justin



Father’s Day is a Father’s WayTo Dream the Impossible Dream

If you look up the definition of what the word “Father” means you will find various meanings i.e.: A man who is the parent, a man acting as the parent, a man who is the ancestor, a man who is the founder, a man who is a leader, a man who is a teacher, a preacher, nurturer, or a man who is a Priest…. Happy Father’s Day to all who can claim any of these descriptions.



The first Father’s Day Darrell ever had was on Monday, February 5, 1996. It was the day that I found out that I was pregnant. When I came back from my doctor’s appointment, my elation could not be hidden so I had to tell someone!! Therefore, I told my Universal  Studio Creative co-worker, comrade, and confidant—Suzan Rude. She was the experienced one—my guru when it came to getting pregnant because she was already a mother to Matt and was also two months pregnant with Samantha. She was clever enough to tell me her secret of how to get pregnant—if you want more details than this, you will have to contact her directly!! So, I tried it and Darrell and I were successful too, or should I say blessed when we were graced with the news that there was a baby in the oven. After I told Suzan, she hugged me, quickly ran out my office, and came back with her husband Greg in tow and then she dropped a small raspberry on my desk and said with a sly grin: “ This is how big your baby is today!” We all laughed.


When I got home that night, I took Darrell to our favorite restaurant in Monrovia—The Derby. It was a very special place for us. Among other significant celebrations, Darrell had actually proposed to me in the dining hall about a year prior. So, when the waitress brought over his dessert and he noticed some paper on the plate, to his surprise he looked at me in awe when he realized it was a faint image of a embryo—from the ultrasound. He became overjoyed and was beside himself. Subsequently, a few months later after we found out that our baby was going to be a boy, Darrell wore his pride bigger on his chest. He was so proud, and oh so happy… He would have been happy either way if we were going to have a girl.


Eight short months later on September 13, 1996 Justin arrived and our dream to be parents came true. Darrell was officially a Father and his son Justin was born. It was such a proud moment when he saw the twinkle in Justin’s eye for the first time. Darrell was over come with emotion and was so elated. Maybe some of you knew that my UCLA Doctor was out of the country when I had to deliver Justin, so I went to Cedar Sinai hospital. In hindsight it was more than a blessing in disguise, because Soledad- my best friend from Convent of the Sacred Heart high school just happened to be the Neo-natal Physician on call. In fact, she was also pregnant with her daughter Shaylyn who was born just a mere week after Justin. As Soledad worked with the team of Doctors, she hands Justin over to Darrell and with a mischievous smile said: “Look Susie a white baby! Darrell was all caught up in the moment of delivery , looked shock and then cracked a smile because he knew Soledad had a sense of humor. You can only imagine the reactions from the other attendees in the delivery room because they had NO IDEAL that we personally knew Soledad—and I’m quite sure they were beside themselves to hear that come out of her mouth. As most people know, a lot of African American babies are born without their full pigmentation and their skin is pale in comparison to what it turns into a few days after birth.

Soledad, Susan, Darrell & Justin at the Baptism
Soledad, Susan, Darrell & Justin at the Baptism









Susan and Justin Eileen Stephens, Suzan and Sam
Susan and Justin Eileen Stephens, Suzan and Sam








MacKynzie, Shaylyn, Justin, Darrell
MacKynzie, Shaylyn, Justin, Darrell







Wedding Bells, Fun times with Justin and his god sisters
Wedding Bells, Fun times with Justin and his god sisters



Time flew by so quickly but as Justin’s Dad, Darrell was a great Father to him and was able to pack a lot of love and adventure in those few short years. They had trips together to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.




Darrell taught him how to use tools, to fix things instead of always calling a repairman because these were the things that Darrell’s Dad instilled in him. He taught Justin how to be a gentleman, how to respect girls, and how to take pride in all that he did. They were also together when the first racial slurs were hurled at them when they were too slow pulling out of a parking space in Arcadia, CA. That was the first time they had to have “The Talk “Darrell insisted that Justin get the full effect of the “haves and the have not’s” therefore

Darrell and his father Russell Carr
Darrell and his father Russell Carr

he wanted him to attend a public school (just like he did) for Elementary School. Darrell often told me: “ Justin needs to know what if feels like to be a black man in this world and to feel comfortable in his own skin.” What gifts he gave to Justin and to me.

In 16 short years Father Darrell (or Darnell as Justin sometimes called him) taught Justin a lot of things including how to:



  • IMG_9032kellyjuju jujuhardhar
    • Play ball
    • Stand tall
    • Build walls
  • Plant flowers
  • Climb towers
  • Live
  • Give
  • Paint and mix concrete for hours
  • Ride the subway
  • Pray
  • Not to stray
  • Sing a song
  • Call out when something is wrong
  • Sing falsetto
  • Work with metal
  • Comb his hair
  • Play fair
  • Be a leader
  • Put money in a meter
  • Take pictures
  • Install fixtures
  • Tie a tie
  • Always say hi
  • Drive a car
  • Be a star
  • Stand for what’s right
  • Be prepared if you have to fight
  • Smile for the camera
  • Help others
  • Love his mother




Even though Darrell’s physical time with Justin—his pride and joy was cut short, Justin will never be too far from his heart and thoughts. It was Darrell who came up with the slogan at Justin’s Celebration of Life when he coined the phrase “ Justin Carr Want’s World Peace.”

Watch this 5 minute clip to see how JCWWP got started… Keep in mind this short video was created and delivered to us 4 days after Justin’s service. Chad Michaels was working for the church that day doing the video for the live feed.  We did not know him at the time.   He was compelled to do this after learning who Justin was…



My niece Laureina did this on the UC Berkeley Campus




Justin’s Dreams will be realized because they are now Darrell’s goals. As Justin’s proud Father, Darrell will carry Justin’s message and show his love for him in so many other ways. Darrell will be that teacher, that guiding light for his students and for so many other kids who desperately need a Father figure. Since he was forced to take his Fatherhood to a different level and into a whole new realm,


Darrell will have Justin’s back and continue to spearhead Justin’s Dare 2 Dream program (that provides visual and performing arts and math tutoring to the underserved). His mission is to spread Justin’s message, and continue sharing his legacy…now this is his FATHER’S WAY as he lives THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM because EVERY DAY will be FATHER’s DAY for Darrell!!!!

Justin Made this Soap Box Derby Age 10



The Impossible Dream

By Joe Darion

To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe

To bear with unbearable sorrow

To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong

To love pure and chaste from afar

To try when your arms are too weary

To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest

To follow that star

No matter how hopeless

No matter how far

To fight for the right

Without question or pause

To be willing to march into Hell

For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true

To this glorious quest

That my heart will lie peaceful and calm

When I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this

That one man, scorned and covered with scars

Still strove with his last ounce of courage

To reach the unreachable star




Susan (aka Justin’s Mom)


I got this  recent message from  a childhood/ family friend-Father Christopher La Rocca.  He and his siblings attended St. Emydius  with our family  and he graduated from St. Ignatius with my brothers.   JCWWP is paying it forward by helping one of his  village kids whose  name is also  “Justin”- get the  surgery he desperately  needs.  His message on  how (our) Justin’s spirit continues to live on across the globe sealed the deal on this Father’s Day.  Father Chris  is  now working as a Carmelite Missionary in Africa…

“Dear Susan, Again, the Holy Spirit is working through you…



Fr Christopher ( La Rocca ) OCD
Carmelite Missionary








JCWWP_Logo_with_Butterfly_II_copy copy

JJ, Jensen, Juju & The Butterfly

JJ, Jensen, Juju and the Butterfly

Real Acts of Love

A Mother’s Day point of view


JJ – (Jeffrey Jr. Age 4)

Jensen – (Artist Extraordinaire—a 12th grader fulfilling one goal)

JuJu – (Justin our eternal Butterfly)

Mother ( me of course)

IMG_9788 copy








The following are true ACTS of LOVE that I witnessed as a Mother on 2/22/2015—the 2ND Angel Anniversary to honor and remember Justin aka Juju—our butterfly.

For me, it was evident and the anticipation had been building up for months ever since 2/22/2013 – when the first everlasting irrevocable moments catapulted us into this whole new realm. The clock continues to click for each second, minute and hour—some leaving powerful markings, that unequivocally reveal that Justin is still inextricably linked within our everyday lives as we try and sail this ship called life.

This year—like last year we decided to have a beach celebration because of the essence that water brings —peace, beauty, calm, infinite tranquility and cathartically or prophetically speaking—water also brought much peace and joy to Justin. Hence, for me—everyday is Mother’s Day. EVERYDAY, I think of what it meant to be Justin’s Mom and how I will never let go of that honor nor give up on any of my nurturing ways. I just can’t. It is an innate quality that will never leave me. Grateful indeed that so many people young and old still take the time to pay homage to me as a Mother. So with that said, this is my story—a four ACT play…

I often ask myself and those spiritually connected: “ Will I ever see Justin again?” By the conclusion of this PLAY, the answer will be revealed…


JJ ACTS Out!!!!

A few days before the event, I received a call from my sister Jeni. She told me that she was planning to come visit for the celebration. However, her sidekick JJ (little man in charge) recently told her: “I don’t want to go to visit Auntie Susu (as he affectionately calls me) or Uncle Darrell if Juju is not going to be there!! Is he back from Heaven yet?” For days he was adamant about his decision not to travel. He sorely missed all of the playful attention that his big cousin gave to him. Like his other little cousins it is hard to conceive the magnitude of this sudden loss of his big cousin Juju… Hell, it’s hard for me.  So, Jeni started working on his psyche, and within a few days luckily he changed his mind. After picking them up from the airport JJ talked nonstop asking a million questions until we pulled up into the driveway. He quickly got quiet and peered his little (big) head over the seat in front of him to get a better view of the house.




He immediately jumped out of the car and followed Uncle Darrell inside . As he walked towards Juju’s pre-teen bedroom JJ reached for the crystal doorknob and he abruptly closed the door. He decisively looked up at Uncle Darrell saying:“ I don’t want to go in there at all!” He then walked towards the kitchen.

Later that evening, JJ came downstairs into Justin’s bachelor bedroom pad where he calmly climbed on the bed next to me. As he gazed around the room he marveled at all of the sport trophies, posters and images of Justin. Then one picture caught his attention. It was the picture Justin when he was 4 years old when  dressed up in an old mans outfit. JJ climbed on me to get a closer look then he smiled laughing cheerfully saying:

“ Look at Juju when he was a baby” ha ha ha…










Beach, Balls, Butterflies

Upon arriving at the overcast and misty beach the next morning, JJ realized that he did not have his Oregon Ducks jersey.  You see he needed his official gear to play football on the sand. He crawled in my lap and with piercing screams and tears he begged me for an hour asking me: “ Please Auntie lets go back and get it.” I told him that the weather was bad, we did not have time and that he would have to play ball without the shirt. As his noise level increased, I told him that “ It is not your day! You can stay in the car if you want, but I am getting out now.” He then quickly followed. Once he hit the beach, he immediately had a new attitude. He grabbed his football, and threw it (like a pro) to anyone who would catch it as he played quarterback and made calls for the various teams he had assembled. He wore everyone out!!






jjsmileEven though the morning weather had been gloomy and raining throughout most of the city, fortunately for us IMG_3979 copyfearless warriors the rain stopped. With the beach as the backdrop, friends and family huddled together under tarps and rested on blankets. We opened up the event listening to Justin’s breathtaking version of the National Anthem,

then the HW Chamber Singers Octet sang “Psalm 8, Ms. Hall

groupsingbeach copy


(Justin’s Art Teacher) remarked about how the HW community is changing for the better because of Justin—one smile at a time. Then Justin’s friend Lora remembered her chance encounter meeting him at a SDLC Diversity conference in December of  2012. She noticed him dropping back to the last position allowing 1399 other students to go ahead of him so that he could be the last one to have a quiet moment with Dr. Bernard Harris– the guest speaker who was an astronaut. I remember that night because Justin sent me a picture from the occasion.



Lora spoke about how “Through

lorahis art, writing, and vision, Justin has shown all of us that achieving world peace means bringing everyone together, like a mosaic, to create a harmonious, loving, compassionate, diverse world in which all people are valued. Watching his message of peace spread around the world–through t-shirts, luggage tags, and hashtags, I am astounded by the power of community and humbled by the prospect of world peace; all because a boy named Justin dared to dream.”




Darrell and I then shared updates of the power of love for Justin and how there are many ripple affects showing us that  his legacy will continue on through the ages.


A variety of butterflies were released, one by one into the chilled air-some lingering longer than others. We watched in awe as they one by one took flight soaring towards the sky. Even though it was not at all warm, the chill of the day was comforting. The group shot was magical as you can see as a sole black bird presents itself soaring over us as we looked toward the sky…




























Jensen’s Love Notes

Late last summer we were approached by one of Justin’s dear friends Jensen who wanted to do a concert in his honor on 2/22/2015.


All of the proceeds went to the Justin Carr Wants World Peace Foundation http://www.justincarrwantsworldpeace.org/. So grateful!!! The concert was held at the Complete Actors Place Studio—a cozy, quaint venue with cabaret seating. The interior was adorned with painted walls, and an elevated stage that showcased Justin’s eclectic collection of artwork. The environment gave you a black-box theatre feel—an appropriate space to honor our Renaissance man Justin.

IMG_3958 copy


Jensen skillfully produced “ A Love Note Concert” befitting to best honor her friend Justin. As she once opted out a lead part in the play “Hairspray” she said that she would do something special to carry out his message further. She said that when she would talk with Justin “he was all about breaking stereotypes and being yourself. His life inspired me greatly; he was so versatile and intelligent and well rounded, not at all fitting into any sort of box, racial or otherwise.” I’m certain, that even though she got flack for declining an acceptance offer into an Ivy League school, Justin would concur that she made the right decision for herself to attend USC- which  offered her more options for her musical pursuits.

Jensen along with her band of brothers (including her own 7th grade brother Holden) and two sets of her peers and their middle school aged brothers commanded the stage singing sweet sounds of music. The duets featured some smart juxtaposition, with dazzling showmanship. These confident younglings all appeared to be trained and seasoned performers and while they were on stage,  they looked entirely at home. The show was spectacular and captivated the audience. It is a good thing to say that there were many tears that paralleled the various songs.  Needless to say when Adam Yaron did a mix of “Man in the Mirror and “Change the World” I was DONE!!!  I think everyone was.  All in honor of their dear friend Justin.

I might also add that my fashionista sister Jeni noticed the butterflies that adorned Jensen’s beautiful skirt…  Jensen jammed and looked so gorgeous as always!!



I was happy to say that little JJ snapped his fingers and wiggled his feet during the whole performance. He sat quietly like  a little church mouse. Maybe he was exhausted from running up and down on the beach or maybe it was because he was resting on a full stomach!!!!

Jensen singing


Adam singing


Jensen , the performers and her family put so much time effort this was truly and ACT of love.








JJ’s Turning point

It was a whirlwind couple of days for JJ and Jeni. We were glad that they came to visit. As they were carrying their bags to the car, JJ stops to look at a huge picture of Justin in our living room and he says to me “ Auntie Susu, how come you have so many butterflies all over your house?” I said to him, “You know your cousin Juju was a swimmer and he loved doing the butterfly stroke.” JJ quickly interrupts me and says politely: “ Excuse me, my mom is taking me to swimming practice tomorrow and I will ask if they know what the butterfly is”, I said, “ That would be great JJ,”  He then places his Chirstmas picture next to Justin’s picture on the table.









As he steps outside to the porch he TURNS  to looks back in the house and says with a “Kool-Aid” smile “ Bye Auntie Susu, bye Uncle Darrell, bye Juju, bye bye butterflies…


A few days before this event, I wrote Valerie Morales—a wonderful virtual friend (because I have never met her face to face) who has touched me and Darrell’s spiritual healing in more ways than we could have ever imagined. One morning I woke up to an email from her:

On Feb 15, 2015, at 8:48 AM, Valerie wrote

Father Pedro Arrupe was a Jesuit priest of Spanish origins with a doctorate in medical ethics. He was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell and he survived the carnage.

Of Hiroshima, he said “it was a permanent experience outside of history engraved on my memory.” We all know what that feels like, things our mind just cannot forget or even forgive.

But, Father Arrupe was better than the rest of us. He devoted his life to helping those on the margins, the forgotten of the world.

He wrote, “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, when you know, what breaks your heart, and, what amazes you with joy a gratitude. Fall in love. Stay in love. It will decide everything.”

Since I was feeling vulnerable at the time.  I responded back to her:

Feb 15, 2015 10:37 AM, “Susan Carr” wrote:

“Valerie, It’s coming up on year 2 without my baby. I am so sad. Do you think I will ever see him again??”

On Feb 15, 2015, at 5:26 PM, Valerie Morales < wrote:

“The question: will you ever see Justin again is in some ways the wrong question to burden yourself with. It is a question you already know the answer to. There is no such reality as death. Only a changing of worlds.

The question then that presses upon your very broken heart is altogether different, wrapped as it is so tightly inside of your grief. Father, have mercy. Will I ever touch Justin again? Will I sing to him? Will I crawl into his arms and he into mine? Will I know him, the kind of knowing only mothers are responsible for because mothers are the beginning, and mothers are the middle and, cruelly, mothers are the absolute end.

I can tell you what I know to be true. I can tell you that Justin did not have a soul, he was a soul. I can tell you that Justin is inside of you. I can tell you that Justin is part of that long equation of eternal life, like your mother and father are, like you will be one of these days. I can tell you that ordinary people and extraordinary destinies link together.

I have said this before to you. If you love someone, they will leave you either they will leave you voluntary or they will leave you falling down on your knees in grief. We will be abandoned by those we love. It is the price we pay for humanity. We are here to love other people.

But, of course, no one tells you that when you push a child out into the world. No one tells you we all have a destiny and God is watching. No one says to you that some children live 90 years. Other children live 50 years. Other children live 4 years. Others live 16 years. All are lucky. All are loved by God more than they are loved by man.

No one said to you in September 1996, no one said, Susan my beloved, life isn’t going to be fair in 2013. So be careful. Be humble. No one said to you that roses bloom in spring and die in winter for a reason.

There are some things and people too beautiful and perfect for this earth. You want to see Justin, you want to see him one last time, in other words, you want a miracle. Einstein’s famous quote about miracles: live your life two ways, either that nothing is a miracle or that everything is.

See, you can’t be afraid of the light and the dark at the same time, even brokenhearted as you are. Just as you were required  to be a mother to Justin in life, you are required to be a mother to Justin in death.

This is how it works. You can’t see Justin  but because of grace he can see everything about you. He can’t feel you but because of sorrow  you can feel everything about him. It’s the great irony of presence and absence, love and death, here and gone, the beginning and end, love and endless pain.

That is what will be true on February 22 whether you believe it or not. You will feel Justin. A mother always feels her children. You will know him. A mother recognizes her children’s fingerprints. You will teach the world about him. A mother is a professor.

And when its over, when they day is finally exhausted of all of its intricacies and the concert is done, and you’ve hugged everyone there is to hug and cried rivers everywhere,  you’ll be able to say, “I am not afraid of storms, I am learning to sail my ship.”

That’s what I am trying to do is to learn a new route and sail my ship to continue to teach others all about Justin, my greatest gift as a Mother…

Today on my visit with Justin,  I had to play Molly Chapman’s “Butterfly” Song


By Molly Chapman


Each morning I would see that smile
And for a little while things would be alright

You were the best
But you didn’t know it
You’d make things better in your colorful, Bill Cosby sweaters


Cause your smile made me smile 
Your laugh made me laugh
And all those silly faces you would make in class I’m gonna miss that, I’ll miss that

You were obviously an angel
But it wasn’t your time, it wasn’t your time Why did you have to go?
You’re leaving me alone, so alone

Please come back, back come back


Butterfly, why did you have to spread your wings and fly away? It wasn’t your time
I never said goodbye
You never said goodbye

x2 Chorus

Cause your smile made me smile
Your laugh made me laugh
And all those silly faces you would make in class I’m gonna miss that, I’ll miss that

You were obviously an angel
But it wasn’t your time, it wasn’t your time Why did you have to go?
You’re leaving me alone, so alone

Please come back, back Come back

If you care to read about JJ’s first encounter  with his cousin Juju read this:





(at least for this PLAY)

JCWWP_Logo_with_Butterfly_II_copy copy





happy to see the sun cr


Dancing is Not to Get a Place on the Floor but to Enjoy Each Step Along the Way

Dancing is Not to Get a Place on the Floor- But to Enjoy Each Step Along the Way

A few people have asked me recently: “Why should I burden myself with the problems afflicting other peoples kids?” Trust me, Darrell and I are holding a heavy load that we bravely carry daily. But, I will ALWAYS be Justin’s mother—which also makes me a Mom. For those of you who know me—I will always instinctively give mothering guidance to others—just as I did for Justin and for my friends—this is my letting me BE!!!!!!!

Over the course of a few days I had the following conversations that have been on my mind and I wanted to share:

Friend #1

I have a friend whose son (was in Justin’s class) is away at college. I asked her: ” How is he doing?” She looked at me in astonishment and told me with gratitude that” I was the ” ONLY” mother /parent in the past 6 months who asked this question.” She said the usual question is: ” WHAT is your son doing?” She said the “Parents want to know his major, grades, and where he falls or fails on the social status on his campus??? ” She said “They have never been concerned about his wellbeing.”  I was shocked…

Friend #2

I congratulated my friend whose child turned down what society deems to the HIGHEST TOP tier college. Instead he chose his passion of study at another great University that had the best academic rigor for his chosen field.  “What’s wrong with that I asked?” He told me that his child got chastised by his peers/teachers/other parents for “settling” for what seemingly appears to be the “lesser college.” He  also told me, that to date, I was the “ONLY”  parent who congratulated him on his sons acceptance. I was flabbergasted!

Friend #3

When I asked a friend (whose son is a Sophomore in college) “How he was doing?” She looked at me and calmly said: “ He tried to commit suicide a few months ago… and I am trying everything to save him and to pull him out of this deep dark hole… “Not being a professional—but only a concerned “Mom”, I told her I was glad she was taking his condition seriously and doing EVERYTHING in her power to help. I was saddened.

Friend #4

Another friend told me that her son ( who is a Senior at a top Ivy League  in the big city)  told her he needed to get diagnosed as being ADHD so he could take medicine ( to survive college) like a lot of his peers.  She told him that she did not feel that he had this issue and she did not agree with him taking any medicine under false pretenses—but would support him always for getting over any seemingly impossible hump.  He felt better after they talked and was glad that he got it off of his chest and that she listened and provided sound advice. That’s what our job is as Parents. To give sound advice.

Paralympic Star #1

US Paralympic Track Star Blake Leeper recently spoke at the HW Middle School.  He told the audience that when he was born, the doctors told his parents that he would be wheelchair bound and that he would NEVER walk—let alone DANCE!  His parents thought otherwise and embraced and  armed him with the ” Can do anything” attitude.  He profoundly told the crowd that “People laugh at me because I am different, I laugh at them because they are all the same”.  He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said:

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

I must add don’t forget to DANCE…


Darrell and Blake Leeper
Darrell and Blake Leeper





Blake Leeper just played in the NBA Celebrity All Star Game. He competed for the RIGHT reasons…

For those fortunate students who have the opportunity to seek their higher education, going to college can be a BIG transition for MOST. Moving to a far away place, sharing a room with a stranger, being outside of their nucleus and thrust into a college atmosphere with a microcosm sampling of what the real world looks like. College days can be lonely and sometimes scary.

Today, it appears that the most popular motto kids/parents have for the pathway to success is BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. I do not need to list these in detail because everyone knows what they are. The kids these days have limited time to JUST HAVE FUN! They are dealing with (but not revealing) the major issues at hand that seem to be put on the back burner i.e. stress, failure (in the eyes of their parents/peers), isolation, confusion, depression,mental health issues or even having second thoughts about their choice of college/and or major.

I remember having so much fun at college—as my Dad said “Too much fun at USC!” —when my report card got home before I did and I received my first “C” ever! I can’t say that we were not faced with a few stresses and some failures—but not to the extent of sending us over the edge. We had random parties in our dorm rooms, in the cafeteria or campus halls. We Danced (thanks to Merle showing us the latest steps), we laughed, we talked to each other. We dated and collectively with groups we got together to socialize. I can’t honestly say that there were not any “vices” in the room, but that was not the focus either. When a friend was in need, we helped or directed them  accordingly. We did not keep blinders on.

Today, the electronic devices and social media have taken over. They are our blinders. People don’t look at each other, talk, or engage without clutching and frequently checking their phones. Some kids have voiced their sentiments saying they wished their college/high school  experience were like the years gone by—less competitive, that their peers would get together to really socialize sans the crutch of having to drink, get drunk or hook-up their way to happiness. They just want to connect and to have fun, and actually DANCE at a party… What happened?  Justin loved to dance.

Justin's Last Dance
Justin doing the Wobble with Kacey








Chamber Singers Cabaret with Victoria
Chamber Singers Cabaret with Victoria


We would ballroom dance in the kitchen. He also spent many an hour teaching his friends how to dance so that they would be ready at the parties! I wish I could dance again with Justin.

I also knew (for the most part) if Justin needed help i.e. emotionally, academically or? Darrel and I did not take him for granted.  We would often tell him that his only COMPETITION is with himself.

Today, I found my Dad’s college handbook from the 1950’s. It was a small pocket size book that spelled out how to dress, engage on campus, learn the school songs, and to have respect/assist their fellow peers/faculty/staff and how to seek help. As Freshman, they had to carry the booklet with them wherever they went.


Pocket Student Handbook
Pocket Student Handbook










They also gave each student a book on “ “How to Court” and “How to Fall in love.”  So much for the good ole days.

SCAN0182I    also found a picture of my Dad with my Mom going to the Junior Prom that was held in college… and the little keepsake booklet they gave out at the dance.

Mom and Dad at the Dance
Mom and Dad at the Dance



I hope that sooner than later collectively society grabs hold of the real issues that afflict OUR kids—who ARE the future. It is time to listen to them, talk to them and pull them away from their isolation as a “Wallflower” (a person who has no one to dance with or who feels shy, awkward, or excluded at a party) and take time to dance with them, engage, with them and just “Let them be!

People take heed (me included) OPEN YOUR EYES, Fall in love with your family and friends appreciate your  life and those around you. It’s ok to stand out instead of trying to fit in.  Life is not always a Party.  Daily life should not be so competitive that we become more selfish, lack compassion; empathy and genuine support of most people around us– and it should not definitely be the Last Dance.  This is my two  cents for the evening.







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Yesterday, you heard about our initial encounter with the wonderful team at the Butterfly Garden Inn. This morning I got the following message from the Owner Nichole:

“Dearest Susan,

As I sit here wiping the tears away, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of love and warmth. Meeting you yesterday was such a blessing. You and your husband are pillars of strength… You exemplify what loving parenting is all about. I am truly inspired by Justin’s story… What a gifted young man he was… A true angel. I know that you found your way to our little haven in the woods for a reason. Life is such a bizarre and magical journey. We have a butterfly lovescape in the center of our property where our guests can place a lovelock to commemorate their time with us. The locks have no keys, so they will remain on our butterfly forever. We would be honored if you would come back before you go so we can place a lock on our beautiful butterfly in Justin’s honor. We even have a turquoise one! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with me. I will forever be touched…

With love,

Since I can’t make this stuff up, you know after I received this note, Darrell and I had to quickly make our way back up the hill.  Once we got there, we met Nichole’s cute and advanced young daughter, and husband Frank (the swimmer).  Frank was as tall as Justin -so you know I had to look up with a pause as I shook and held on to his hand.  We also met Mary,( her beloved Mother Linda’s best friend ), who made the trek cross county from Florida to spend the holiday with Nichole and her family.  This was their way to keep up the family tradition during holidays despite the loss they too hold deeply in their hearts.

A few minutes after giving us a plate of freshly baked cookies, Nichole handed me a “turquoise” lock.    She told us to think of a message and you know that was not hard to do.  Within minutes,  Frank carefully engraved the lock.


Nichole then  led us  out back to an open area  in the surrounds of the cabins and she said: “Place it wherever you like.”   She said she got the ideal from the Pont des Arts footbridge  in Paris, France where Love locks have created spontaneous “lovescapes” in cities and towns around the world. The idea is that you and your love attach a lock, often with names or initials written on it, onto a bridge. You throw the keys into the river or canal as a sign that your love is eternal, never to be undone.  She said that she met a local craftsman who made the butterfly trellis that supported the locks.

Butterfly Garden Inn Love Lock
Butterfly Garden Inn Love Lock

She also shared the depth of how they came to acquire such a lovely piece of property. Read the article:


As we said our goodbyes and headed out, I quickly remembered that Justin’s Aunt Caroline did a photo shoot near the lock she placed for Justin in Paris and his friends  Kovi and Autumn and my friend Kathy all sent us pictures last year that were posted when they were there on vacation.  I can make the quick trip to Arizona faster than I can to Paris so this is a good thing.

Justin's Auntie Caroline
Justin’s Auntie Caroline
Locks on the bridge in Paris
Locks on the bridge in Paris
JCWWP in Paris
JCWWP in Paris

These are all signs that my love for Justin is eternal and will never be undone.  My locks of love for him will always be held close to my heart.   I feel good this night before Christmas 2014.


***  I know from an aesthetic point of view Justin is probably rolling his eyes because I added the  luggage tag to the lock arrangement.  Nichole said I could do whatever I wanted.  So, Justin at least the tag matches the lock right???


Mom aka OTTO (Over the Top Olivia)

Some things never change…

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As the end of the year quickly approaches, we must say again how truly thankful and blessed we are to have you—our dear and very generous friends—supporting us and the Justin Carr Wants World Peace Foundation (JCWWP), not just with your time or monetary contributions, but your very connection to us….

Although, we’re forced to have a second Thanksgiving without our beautiful Justin physically here, we’re once again reminded of what Thanksgiving really means…Thanks. Giving. So, we are thanks giving for your “Friendsgiving”, because without that support we would not be in this place. So many from all walks of life, cultural descent and ages, have become quiet foot soldiers and walk beside us—for whom we are forever grateful. You all are truly a beautiful reflection of Justin’s belief that no matter where we come from, we are always stronger standing together than apart…

Another reflection of Justin’s impact is his story being shared around the world, that’s generated a strong year for JCWWP (and personally strengthened us). Accomplishments in 2014 include:

Dare 2 Dream: Among quite a few examples of achievement due to the program, one student won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Belvoir Terrace Visual and Performing Arts Summer Program in Boston; another won a trip to Monaco for Princess Stéphanie’s Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo

  • Benefit Programs & Products: ArtsAhimsa Concert in honor of Justin; Angeles Chorale Concert in honor of Justin on his 18th Birthday; and JCWWP luggage tags travel the world…
  • Medical Partnerships: We were invited to share Justin’s story at the 2014 American Heart Association Ball http://youtu.be/-7g9Zb8zXOA; and are currently working on a heart, art and peace project for testing and to educate others about  early heart disease detection.
  • Awards: CBS2 LA News wins an Emmy Award for Justin’s story
  • Paying It Forward: Funded cost to remove a huge neck growth on a young man in Jinja, Uganda… He’s a good kid, the oldest of 6, very impoverished background, his mother has HIV – and his name is Justin…

Our goals for 2015 are even more ambitious, as we continue this journey of giving…

  • Justin’s Dare 2 Dream Math Tutoring and Arts at underserved Schools
  • An April Love Notes Presents Justin Carr Wants World Peace Benefit Concert created and produced by one of Justin’s high school friends
  • Provide Scholarships to Visual and Performing Arts Programs
  • Obtain partnerships with major companies to educate and test for early heart disease detection (stay tuned)

If you would like to help us with those endeavors among others, please note that the  Pasadena Community Foundation http://www.pasadenacf.org  accepts donations for JCWWP any time of the year.  http://www.pasadenacf.org/donate_how.aspx.

Learning to Grieve with Gratitude has become our mantra… And grateful we are, because of our friends who have given their time, energy, spirit and love, JCWWP has achieved a lot this year. We also know that we need each and every one of you to help us continue on our quest to do better and be better just like Justin.

It is true how love does show up in unexpected ways, and we feel that love through you, because to paraphrase John Lennon we’ve been able to get by with a “little” help from our friends, and we do need everybody, and we appreciate all of your love. Your support has enabled the ripple effects of JCWWP and Justin’s life to allow us to see stars even on the darkest days. Below are true testimonies of how his butterfly wings and your JCWWP contributions help others continue to soar, and for us to beam with pride…

Thank you again for being there as our broken hearts slowly heal and for your generous support… May this holiday bring you peace, love, faith, friendship and continued service to others–everything your friendsgiving gives us.

In Peace and Love,

Susan & Darrell Carr


Susan’s Blog



 “I want to do something amazing that will leave the world better than when I arrive…that’s a skill I learned from Justin.” Jackie —8th Grader

 “He had such goodness in his soul and he radiated kindness. He always put others before him. It was never about him. It’s as if his goal was to make everyone around him feel happy, and he always succeeded.” Marianne —12th Grader

He has truly changed me to be more accepting, to listen, and to be grateful for even the smallest of things. I hope to make my mark, to make an impact on the world…anyone who knew Justin undoubtedly derived inspiration from his demeanor and his determination. So any change any of us makes, is a change that Justin makes. Just know that Justin continues to live through me in college.” Maddy —College Freshman

 “Justin talked to me about how he was actually self-conscious in his swim team and even in acting about not being good enough and that fear is exactly what pushed him to be great. And that is the single most important piece of advice I have ever received in my life.”Eugénie—College Freshman

“I think I admired Justin from too far away, and I wish I could’ve taken him under my wings more (though he needed no help)…As I move further into adulthood, I know without question that…Justin will continue to anchor me to gratitude and positivity.” Evan—College Junior

“Justin’s legacy will always fuel them (the kids) with appreciation for the preciousness of life, engaging in it with courage, and serving the world. Whether they fully realize it now or not… Heck, that’s a lesson he left me. And trust me, I think of Justin often Shelley—Parent

 “The Holy Spirit is working through you. It is said, “If you want (World ) Peace,  work for justice.” Justin and justice have the same root: righteousness… ” Heaven (turquoise) and earth (brown) are filled with your glory… Amen!” Walk in the light….THERE WILL BE RIPPLES… AT EACH HEART BEAT…RIPPLES OF LOVE…RIPPLES OF PEACE… RIPPLES OF MERCY…RIPPLES OF COMPASSION…RIPPLES OF POWER… RIPPLES OF LIGHT… RIPPLES OF JOY… RIPPLES OF ETERNAL LIFE ….“Fr Christopher ( La Rocca ) OCD Carmelite Missionary , Uganda —Susan’s Elementary School friend

The following is an example of special testimonies we received from those who either watched the news segment about us and Justin’s story prompting schools to test students for undetected heart disease or at a screening event:

“I have wanted to reach out to you to tell you about our August Screening event… You were on my heart that day as we were able to screen over 100 students through Cardiology and provide physicals. When I saw concerned Echocardiogram techs running down to catch a parent to meet with the Cardiologist again, I knew we had found something significant. The screening captured a serious life threatening undiagnosed condition in this young man…

I have wanted to tell you of this and let you know that I was thinking of Justin that whole day as I do at every event…I also felt a sense of peace as I told Justin…”we saved this one for you.” There was a sense of immense emotion as we gave this child back to his mom and told her about your story. It brought tears to her eyes and she pledged to be praying for your family as well.

We are happy to have saved this one young man in Justin’s honor and memory, and we will continue to move into the future to provide cardiac screenings for our students. Hoping to save families the terrible grief you have been through. May God bless you today and everydayHigh School Nurse

These testimonies not only comfort us to know that the impact of Justin’s life continues, but are also evidence that the work of JCWWP Foundation must continue as well… Thank you!

A final testimony from SusanFor Thanksgivings past, our family trio would frequent San Francisco to visit my family. But in 2012, Justin insisted all family up North travel south to our home. Thrilled, Justin made a floor plan of the sleeping arrangements (those engineer genes in him!), and carefully planned an excursion to visit his favorite playground, Disneyland.   We all had a fun, fabulous time. He was so excited that his staycation was successful… We don’t know what made him insist on wanting to celebrate at home, but we are so blessed that our last Thanksgiving with Justin was so full of happiness, laughter and love…

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