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A STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE with NOTES & ART FROM THE HEART

A STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE with

 NOTES & ART FROM THE HEART

 Cristine is a new friend, who recently lost her mother. Since the aftermath of this dramatic change in her life, she told me that now she finally realizes- and can fully appreciate why some things were more important to her mother than others. As a child, she often felt that their home was not as tidy as she thought it should be because her mom used it as a staging/storage space for her classroom supplies and projects during her 30 years as an Art Teacher.   Instead of constantly doing house chores, her mom’s priority was frequently ushering Cristine and her sister out of the house to explore museums, parks, beaches, exhibits and other areas of interest in and outside of their city limits.

 Currently, Cristine homeschools her children, and she quickly has realized how much time it takes in a day, to manage all of the work/life/school balance issues, and she sees the importance of not sweating the small stuff and is now cherishing the things that are important in life.

This past Monday, Cristine shared a personal treasure that she found at her parents home. It was a handmade simple craft that her mother helped her create in 1977 (when she was only 3 years old). The beauty of this jewel that was completed while on a family vacation is that it only cost time and love.

This priceless treasure chest was made from an old egg carton that now will be cherished and coveted forever. The details of the park or beach visited are so well documented on the lid. Now Cristine can not only take her own children to each spot that her mother took her but they can make memory boxes filled with their finds on their childhood trip.

When you look at the attached pictures of the box, you can see that the outside of the egg carton is adorned with shells found on various beaches. Inside, each egg cradle holds a nonperishable memorabilia item that was found at the various spots. There is moss, a shell, pinecone, or flowers all secured with gobs of good old fashion Elmer’s glue. The lid has a detailed description of where each item was found i.e. Acorn (Passion Gulch State Park) or Pinecone (Napa Valley State Park). Now tell me that this piece of ART does reveal HISTORY! This is one that should be tried at home. Priceless memories that have withstood 37 years. In honoring the memory of her mother, Cristine said that she would now focus on the positive memories that she had with her as she moves forward in her life.

 

Cristines Golden Vacation Egg Carton
Cristines Golden Vacation Egg Carton

Last Tuesday, I dropped an earring on the floor next to my bed. When I got down on my knees in search of the small turquoise stone, I noticed a large plastic box underneath my bed that I had not touched for many years. I reached under to grab the container and I gently pulled it towards me. Initially, I had no ideal what was inside. However, shortly after I released the dusty lid, I knew exactly what lay dormant- and soon appreciated- why I had saved the wonderful treasures that were neatly stockpiled inside. Tears gently rolled down my cheeks because I knew that I was about to ride an emotional rollercoaster as I made a trip down memory lane through the eyes of Justin. Inside, I found an aggregate collection of some of his finest and priceless elementary school work from grades 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I said: Oh My!” as I frantically grabbed the phone and tried to call Justin’s Elementary Principal “Ms. Q” (who produced and directed 13 plays that Justin was in) so she could be a witness to my impromptu discovery. She did not answer.

After I quickly dragged the box into Justin’s old pre- teen bedroom, I sat down to explore. Inside I found a treasure trove of his beautiful sketches, detailed artwork, colorful and creative book reports, science projects, daily journals, letters from his classmates (written when he was the Star Student of the week), doodles, plays, scripts, autobiographies, a biography written about his father Darrell and to top it off, at the bottom of the stack was his 2nd grade report with detailed sketches of “THE LIFECYCLE OF A BUTTERFLY!! On the cover Justin used objects to depict the various stages of the development of a butterfly. All that remained in tack was a painted piece of bowtie pasta that was the shape of a butterfly. How creative is that!

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

 

All of Justin’s work depicted such skill and precision. It was again apparent and quite evident that from the young ages of 6,7,8, Justin had clearly defined the beginnings of his strong affinities for the arts. Regardless of the subject matter all of his homework assignments were completed like pieces of art.

I was a Room Parent for many of Justin’s classes throughout his life. The Public School lack of funds did not always have the resources. So my “Pasadena Public Defenders” as I call them now, Jeru, Lorraine, Linella. Etc. all helped the teachers with our time and resources to supplement and to provide the best for our kids.   Whenever I did something special, Justin would MAKE his classmates write thank you notes to me. I found one and just shook my head marveling at the accuracy of Justin’s character images of his classmates. He nailed their expressions and hairdos even in 3rd grade on the cover sheet.

From 3rd Grade Class
From 3rd Grade Class

 

Cover Artwork by Justin Carr 3rd Grade
Cover Artwork by Justin Carr 3rd Grade

Justin’s homework, and the notes written by his classmates were all true testaments of who he was at an early age and once again affirm that he really never changed as he grew to become a young talented man. The scope of the work that I found revealed the value of having the tutelage of good teachers who infused creative syllabus and instruction that enticed the kids to yearn to learn and it made the work effortless and fun.

Notes Justin's friends wrote to him
Notes Justin’s friends wrote to him

 

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It was also a reality check in how Justin was blessed with the best of the best of teachers (Ms. Walker, Ms. Tataro, Ms. Kim, Ms. Yu, Ms. Hall) who loved their jobs, and most importantly loved their students. They were not lackadaisical in their jobs; TAUGHT every day, infused the ARTS and the kids all grew and learned tremendously as a direct result. Subsequently, Ms. Q also spent her own money and personal time on every musical that she produced. She also allowed each and every student in good standing to participate in every play.

justin's debut as the Wolf in the Three Piggy Opera 1st Grade
justin’s debut as the Wolf in the Three Piggy Opera 1st Grade

Following are excerpts from the notes I found in the collections, I did not correct any spelling errors:

Year 2002 (6 years old) 1st Grade

Every kid in the class got a week to be the “Star Student”

When Justin was in 1st grade he wrote in his journal:

“ I am nice, handsome, cool, special, kind, helpful, sweet and caring. I am very smart. I am an incredible artist. I have pretty eyes. I am trusting and I am loveable, capable special and unique.”

Justin's Description of Himself 1st Grade
Justin’s Description of Himself 1st Grade

His first grade classmate also wrote the following notes to him in his Star Student journal: I purposely did not correct the spelling errors to keep them authentic.

1st Grade 10/24/03

“Dear Justin,

You are nice and a good artis. Justin, you are the best kid with art. I thing that you love and help out with anyone. You are a good friend with what you do. You are the best friend I have. Love, Natalie Sheng”

 “Dear Justin,

You are an excellent artist and a fantastic drawer. You’re capable, caring, unique and special. Love, Nolan”

 “Dear Justin,

I think you are the kindest, nicest and most caring student ever. I think you are a fantastic artist. You can be a fantastic basketball and football player. Love, Ravi

2nd Grade 3/19/04

“Dear Justin, you are nice, funny, handsome, cute, great singer and actor, Next time I come to your house can we do a show? And you are a very good artist.

From Berrie Tsang”
“Dear Justin,

You are a good star student. You are a good artist. You are a good basketball player, you are a good friend. You are good at math; you are a great reader, actor, and writer.

Sincerely, Micaela”

“Dear Justin,

You are an awesome artist. You’re a funny and goofy guy. You’re a great leader. Your great at singing. You are a great friend and helper. From Jade”

WHAT ABSOULUTELY TOOK MY BREATH AWAY WAS THIS HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT THAT I FOUND IN JUSTIN’S JOURNAL

5/23/04 (8 years old) Justin wrote in his journal

“When I get older I would like to be a great swimmer and an architect/engineer I would like to go to the Olympics and place in freestyle. After that, I would want to build movie and play sets and houses.”

6/15/2004

“My ART Studio “I’d like to have my own art studio. I would paint pictures for weddings, parties and some just for fun” I am going to be a famous artist when I am dead.”

 HOW PROPHETIC IS THAT!!!!

AND IN JUSTIN’S 2ND GRADE JOURNAL, HE WROTE ABOUT LOVING TO DO CARTWHEELS. I AM NOT GOING TO WRITE WHAT HE WROTE; YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF ON THE ATTACHED PICTURE. THERE IS A PICTURE HE DREW OF HIMSELF IN 2ND GRADE DOING A CARTWHEEL. I ADDED A PICTURE THAT I FOUND ON JUSTIN’S PHONE OF A CARTWHELL HE DID ON A FIELD TRIP TO “DEATH VALLEY” A MERE 3 WEEKS BEFORE HE DIED… HIS BEST FRIEND ERIC TOLD ME THAT HE WAS INSTRUCTED BY JUSTIN TO TAKE A SERIES OF PICTURES OF JUSTIN DOING THE CARTWHEELS.

Justin's 2nd grade drawing and Journal entry.  February 2013 picture of Justin doing a cartwheel
Justin’s 2nd grade drawing and Journal entry. February 2013 picture of Justin doing a cartwheel

 

 I HAVE NO WORDS.

 This evening, I decided to take a stroll after I parked on a random street in Pasadena. I have a hard time going near places of interests that Justin loved so I usually detour. However, today I could not avoid walking down the back street behind his old elementary school. The playground and gym that once were is now a major construction site; Measure Y dollars at work! As I peered through the fence, I shed a tear, because I knew if Justin (my little Architect) were here, he would have loved to see this project in progress and review the proposed plans.

I also visualized that on a few occasions (when Justin was in 1,2,3 grades) I would drive down this street during recess, just to see if I could spot him and hopefully see him engaged with friends and having a good time. Yes I did! The truth has to be told. He never saw me, but sometimes his friends would.  🙂  As I walked away from the school, I dialed Ms. Q’s number. This time she answered. I tried not to break into tears, as I told her I was standing near the school that she transformed into a Blue Ribbon School, near the same corner that she last saw Justin when he came for a visit after he left. She told me she remembered that day too. Then she said: “I just sent you a picture of something that reminded me of Justin today.” After I hung up the phone, I looked at my text and it was a picture of a turquoise butterfly.

Like Darrell said ” Justin asked for World Peace when he was 4 years old.”  He also wrote it in a  Santa when he was about 9 years old.  This was a consistent theme and not to far from Justin’s thoughts because I also came across his holiday wishes in this treasure chest of memories  and found it in a homework assignment when he was 8 years old. My baby…..

Justin's Holiday Wishes Page 1
Justin’s Holiday Wishes  For Himself Page 1
Justin's Holiday Wishes Age 8
Justin’s Holiday Wishes  For His Family Age 8
Justin's Holiday Wishes Page 3
Justin’s Holiday Wishes For the World and For His Friends Page 3

I had to write tonight, all of these things and images on the attached pictures are true. I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!!!

Justin’s High School Art Teacher Ms. Hall told me: “ Art is one way to keep a person Immortal. It will live on through the ages.” All of the art treasures that Justin left will last forever. Justin will forever live in my heart!!

http://www.justincarrwantsworldpeace.org/art-gallery.html

  FINDING THESE TREASURES REVEALING THE BEGINNING OF JUSTIN’S AFFINITY WITH THE ARTS, DID MY HEART GOOD.

In 11th Grade, Justin listed his character traits as being Helpful, Skillful, Creative, Observant and Sensitive.  He was right again.

He also called me a Hoarder.  Like my friend Marjorie said “Being a Pack rat has its benefits.  Deciding what to throw away has always been a struggle. ”  It looks like I chose well.  I think I did!!

Was this all Gods plan? It is still hard for me to get to this point of reason. I still have questions each and every day.  How could Justin have impacted the world if given more time???????????????????????

 

 

3rd grade swim party
3rd grade swim party with Lana and Berrie at Nolan’s house hosted by Jeru

 

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“THE KING AND I” …AS SPOKEN BY THE “QUEEN”

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The Greatest Birthday Gift of All… Since today this April 3, 2014 is my Birthday..

THE KING AND I
AS SPOKEN BY THE “QUEEN”

About three weeks ago I received a message via the www.justincarrwantsworldpeace.org website and it took my breath away. You see, it was from a young woman whose name is Taguhi. I had lost track of her and I had tried to track her down over the past few years; especially in 2013 when we lost Justin. I had not seen her since April 3, 2008 when she came to my birthday party.

That year, I wanted to have a party at a roller skating rink. Darrell and Justin thought I was absolutely nuts. Justin said; “How scary was that going to be to see a bunch of “old people” trying to move around on skates w/o falling and breaking bones as they attempt to groove to the “oldies but goodies songs?” OMG Mom, Stop!!! They had other plans Justin and Darrell were mad at me because they wanted to surprise me with a dinner party at the lodge across the street from our house. Once again, I foiled their well thought out plans. Since Justin was a perfectionist of sorts, and he didn’t know how to roller skate, he felt I was being selfish to have even considered having a party where he claimed he would not have any fun! And he also knew I was not the best roller skater anyway.

Because, he learned early from my childhood stories that I told him often about what we did growing up in San Francisco, where we lived on a steep hill. Roller skating was not in the equation of fun in our neighborhood. However, we did make good use of the hills during “wax board” season. After school, all the kids would run home do their homework, grab a bar of soap, a cup of good old Crisco oil or old candles and gather on the streets. We would get planks of wood, or sheets of plywood and let the waxing begin. We waxed every inch of the boards to perfection with wax, soap or oil. Upon completion, we would truck up to the top of the hill by “Kite mountain” and sit solo on the unwaxed side of the board, and sometimes we would let the toddlers ride in tandem as we flew at high speeds down the hill racing like the fast and the furious. We were indeed a lucky bunch of kids, no major injuries, only an occasional burn or scratch…So, instead of roller skating, ice-skating was our thing in the city. We would run down the hill and go to Legg’s rink on Ocean Avenue.

So, I wanted to have an old fashion “Rollbounce” skating party. I just wanted to do something different. I had not had a large party in some years and I wanted to have some fun. As a mother of all mothers, I told my men of the house not to worry. Subsequently, I enrolled Justin and his God brothers Sean and Miles in Saturday lessons at Moonlight in Glendale, CA. After a few classes, they quickly learned the basic techniques of roller skating and then they were well prepared on party day…. To keep Justin involved, I told him he could design my birthday cake. He was thrilled and said proudly, “Thanks, Mom, I’m glad you are having a roller skating party, I will design a special cake for you.” You can see from the attached picture, that Justin was creative and loved the color turquoise long ago. The party was a huge success and everyone young and old had so much fun. There were a few bruises and slips and falls, but everyone had fun!!

I first met Taguhi when I was searching for a “mothers helper” to take care of Justin when he got out of school in the 5th grade. I was working on the design team for a proposed theme park in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and my time was not as flexible. All of the people who had been recommended to me to help had already secured employment, so I had to cautiously put and ad on Craig’s List. Yes, that’s right, Craig’s List. Not sure if I would recommend that today, but it worked for me back then. Darrell and Justin thought I had really lost my mind. As usual, I assured them both that I would do my research and interview accordingly. I felt that I was pretty good at assessing the character of people.

Taguhi responded to my ad, I interviewed her over lunch and then invited her to our home to meet Darrell and Justin. Besides being stunning and focused during our conversation, she seemed to have a caring and quiet confidence and understood clearly what this ” hovering helicopter (kind of but not really) OTTO pilot mother was going to expect from her as she cared for her prize possession during her absence.

Initially, I think Darrell scared her with his questions and stern tone. I could see that Justin was smitten with her beauty and calm presence coupled with the fact that she brought him a supreme fruit tart from “Portos” as a treat. Taguhi seemed very relaxed and comfortable and honest. I sealed the deal and offered her the position when she did not hesitate to give me references, her social security number, license etc. for the official background check. She passed with flying colors and was hired within a few weeks. She told us that it would be easier for us to call her “Queen” because that is what her name meant in Armenian.

After the first day of pick up, Justin came home and said he had a very good day. He was laughing and smiling with pride because he said, “When Queen rolled up dressed to the nines in her chariot red two door BMW, and got out of the car to get him, those fifth grade boys could not contain themselves as they yelled out to him Justin, who is that ? Justin said he smiled ( I’m sure flashing that million dollar smile ) and said ” That’s Queen, my nanny” They replied “Justin you have a “hot nanny!”

As the days and years went by, Queen lived up to and exceeded all of our expectations. She loved Justin and he loved her. Not once was there a complaint about her from Justin. They were partners who traversed across the San Gabriel Valley hills from Sierra Madre to Altadena to Pasadena; riding in style in her royal car (which I must say that she drove a better car than me). And as Justin quickly got taller than her, she had to look up to him as her “King child” and he looked down to her as his Queen. The respect was mutual.

Our family jewel Queen nurtured him, listened to him, laughed with him and most importantly she encouraged him and she continued to instill our family values when she was with him. She became an integral part of our family. Not only did she pick Justin up on time, fix him treats, drop him off at the Rose Bowl for swim practice she also loved him as if he were her own. When Justin entered Harvard- Westlake in the 7th grade, the Atlantic Bus coach took over and served all of our Transportation needs. Subsequently, Queen decided to continue school and she moved hundreds of miles away.

Over the years we lost contact. Last year I desperately tried to find her to shed the unimaginable news to her about our Prince of Peace, her King. The email and phone contact information that I had for her was old and not current, google and social media searches turned up nothing, and so I lost hope of ever seeing her again.

Everything changed when I received the following message from Queen a few weeks back. After we caught up for hours she said I could share her message with the world and I told her when the time hit me I was going to write about it. So today being April 3, and my birthday, I felt that today I would share this gift. We are so grateful for this gift we received from our Queen. Learning the depth of her relationship and the back story of her yesteryear gone by with Justin (that are still indelibly engraved in her mind) will be cherish forever.

Following is Queen’s version of ” The King and I :

“From: Taguhi
Date: March 13, 2014, 1:30:57 PM PDT
To: justincarrwwp@gmail.com

Dear Susan & Darrell,

This is Queen, Justin’s sitter from years ago. I am so sorry to hear about the terrible tragedy that struck your hearts and lives a year ago. I just found out this morning about what happened to Justin. Justin was such a brilliant child, so talented, so smart and with a gentle spirit about him, I knew he was destined for greatness. I remember thinking many times to myself ” I can’t wait to see the man Justin becomes, what he does in his life, the places he goes…” This morning when I woke up, as I was having my morning coffee, Justin came to my mind as he often has throughout the years. I have thought of him and your family with great joy in my heart, recalling memories from what seems like ages ago. I decided to Google him and anticipated to find some really cool stuff he may have been up to that was sure to make me smile. I was devastated to find an article come up saying that Justin had died a year ago. I am so so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine how difficult it has been, and still is, for two loving parents such as yourselves to cope with such an unthinkable loss.  I had the great pleasure of being in your lives daily for some time and witnessed the great level of dedication you had as parents to an amazing boy. Your pride and your joy. Your lives were so clearly and selflessly dedicated to this child, an angel, who was equally dedicated to his loving parents. I pray that your heavy hearts are lightened as you continually hear how Justin touched the lives of so many people during his short time on earth! I am one of the many who Justin has made a huge impact on. He was wise beyond his years, with an intuition and empathy for others that was striking to me for someone of his young age. I remember his joyous face, his bright eyes that sparkled on any given day, and his contagious laugh. Sometimes I’d hear Justin break out into a song out of nowhere, expressing out loud what he was feeling in his heart, and it would make my heart smile too. Justin had so much insight into people, like he was connecting with each person he came into contact with on a deeper level than most people do. I remember picking him up after school, and us driving down the scenic road together while he told me about his day; what he did, who he came into contact with and what his thoughts were about things. He was so perceptive about things. I often felt I was in the presence of an old soul who had been around longer than his years gave away! Some days we would drive by Justin’s favorite house in the neighborhood, close to your family home. Together we would marvel at the architecture and landscaping. He had such an eye for beauty of all sorts, and he certainly knew how to appreciate the finer things in life. Fine food, fine art, fine interior design. I recall how involved he was in the plans to redesign your kitchen. I watched him express himself in so many creative and artistic ways. I also saw the strength he had within him to be true to who he was while others may have been different. I remember the determination he had to be as good as he can be. I remember his heart and how unselfish he was. He was often preoccupied with making sure his loved ones were happy, and if that was the case then he certainly was happy. He had such an amazing sense of humor and could find joy in any seemingly dull moment. I don’t recall my antics during my time with Justin, but I remember him laughing loudly at times and say teasingly “Queen, you’re crazy!” I remember how at such a young age Justin was already able to value and appreciate all that you as his parents had done and were doing for him. He was so polite and demonstrated such high moral standards. Every day I had with Justin was a gift for me. I was proud to have known him in my life and honored at having been in his presence. While no one expected that his life would be cut so short, and we all had such great expectations of his bright future….I can see that he already accomplished so much while he was here and touched and changed so many lives. While he is no longer here in his physical form, I believe he is with us in spirit and continually lives within our hearts. I believe he had a special place reserved just for him up there with the angels and he’s having such a good time. I also believe that all he still really wants is for his Mom and Dad to be happy. Susan and Darrell, I pray for you to heal and be happy again. While nothing can compare to the joy you felt in your hearts when you held Justin in your arms every day, what a joyous reunion it will be when he takes you into his arms when your journey is complete and you reach heaven. I asked myself many times how Justin happened to be so great in so many ways. I know that while a lot of it was unique to him and his soul and personality…I also saw how he flourished so beautifully because he had you as his parents. You are also an inspiration to me as parents. I am now a mother and while I haven’t been a mother for too long I have already found myself in situations asking myself “what should I do? what is the right thing to do?” I have thought “I wonder what Susan and Darrell did?” While I don’t know details I do know you were gentle, always loving, always encouraging and you took your time. Because nothing was more important than your darling child. My note of condolences to you is belated and somewhat long. Throughout the past year Justin was still alive for me in my life, and with his memory in my heart he will always be alive. I wanted to share some of my best memories of Justin with you too.

With all my love,
Queen”

I am so, so sorry that our Queen had to find out a whole year later about Justin. I can only visualize the pain, anguish and shock she felt learning of the news of her fallen King via the internet. There are no words except I am so glad that Queen was feeling Justin that day. Now we are re-united, she can now drive and walk with us through the valleys and over the hills in this life as we now know it without or precious son. As a new wife and mother, she/we laughed last week when we spoke and she admitted that she really could not afford that fancy car she was driving back then, but she learned from that crazy stage of young adulthood.

And so it is now going into year 2 without my baby and yet another birthday without hearing him sing to me on my special day, this April 3. I will cherish this gift from Queen. I will also make a wish and hope that my wish will come true.

May together we continue to love this life as Justin did by living it as bravely, faithfully and cheerfully as we can. The gift of hope for better days is all I’m asking and I can’t wait to dance, hug and maybe a bit of roller skating with my baby again. In the mean time, Darrell, my Prince Charming, will continue to hold my hand and roll, bounce or glide as we walk this road together in honor and memory of our Justin, our Prince of Peace.

All Hail to the Queen, she has spoken!

 

With love and praise ,

The Queen Mother, Susan aka OTTO, always Justin’s Mom

 

Photos of

Queen sitting in Justin’s designed Breakfast nook

Justin the King with his cousin Mia

Roller skating Cake designed by Justin, made by Violet’s Cake

Roller Skating Party Pictures

My birthday Wish

 

Note from the after the party to the guest:

Subject: Message about SUSAN TOLER CARR’S  ROLL BOUNCE BIRTHDAY PARTY 4/7/2008

HELLO FOLKS, JUST CHECKING IN ON THIS MONDAY MORNING TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR
BONES AND MUSCLES ARE BACK TO NORMAL AND NOT ACHING TOO MUCH!! I HAD A BLAST
AND I HOPE YOU DID TOO. WE HAD OVER 190 PEOPLE THERE ENJOYING SOME GOOD OLD
FASHION FUN! 140 OF YOU WERE GROOVING ON WHEELS!!! THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING,
CARING AND BEING NEAR AND DEAR TO MY HEART. YOU ALL HAVE TOUCHED MY LIFE IN
DIFFERENT WAYS,. THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR HUGS, CARDS AND GIFTS TOO. LOVE,
SUSAN. PICTURES ETC TO FOLLOW

 

NOTICE: This message (including any attachments) is protected by law.

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