Tag Archives: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

This Swimmer Caught My Ear

 

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The First Annual Justin Carr Memorial Swim Meet was held yesterday  March 2, 2014,

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Yesterday, we did it. I walked the pool, I touched the water… I made the sign of the cross, I said a prayer, and thinking of my baby Justin made me smile through my tears. The HW swim team and Coach Jon Carroll and Coach Darlene Bible, embraced us. I spoke to Justin Carr World-Peace teammates, they gave me hugs, Nina walked me through the moments and the joy that Justin brought to her on that first day she met him. And Grant Nussbaum -what can I say about the friendship you had with Justin was a gift. Justin’s Art Teacher Ms. Hall designed the trophy which is a image of Justin doing the butterfly, the sun from Justin’s infamous ” happy to see the sun come up”, the triangle is synonymous with the ” renaissance man, Loyola had a special cheer for Justin, and we saw so many kids who swam with Justin on the Rose bowl club team. It did not rain much, and my girls, Portia, Nasreen, Angie, Natalie, Amber, Sharon, Cathleen, Ms. Hall, and Jeanne, all stood by my side thank you. I made it through the first annual Justin Carr swim meet. Oh, and we started out the meet with Justin singing the anthem there was not a dry eye in the stadium.

 

Thank you everyone. Justin, there are no more words.. Love you and miss you more.

 

 

 

My guardian angel Nina Avalos-Juarez

who only met my baby Justin Carr World-Peace for the first time ONE HOUR before his untimely transition sent me this gift via a FB message back in November 2013. I read it all the time because it proves to me that Justin was living his life to the fullest up until the moments right before is untimely passing. Yesterday was my first time visiting the pool and I met Nina officially for the first time to give her the biggest hug ever for sending me this GIFT. I love it when people tell me what Justin meant to them so keep in contact with me. More gifts hearing about Justin’s life (outside of our home) are very much appreciated. It helps me get through my quiet days. Nina said it was ok to post her private message she sent to me and share it with you all. Thank you Nina for finding the words…

 

Hello!

 

I’m sure you are probably wondering who I am. My name is Nina Juarez. I am currently a sophomore at Harvard-Westlake. Now you’re probably wondering, “Why is this girl I have never met before messaging me?” Well the reason why I am messaging you is because I want to thank you. On February 22, 2013 I met a very special person who, little did I know, was going to change my life. His name was Justin Carr. On that day I was going to the Upper school (since I was in 9th grade then I had to take the sports shuttle) to swim practice with Coach Carroll. When we first got there Carroll told us that we were going to watch some film first. That is where I saw Justin for the first time. He was surrounded by all of his friends. He was so happy and joyful which made me so excited to get to swim with him. It was pretty much my first time swimming with the swim team since I had just finished Water Polo. Anyway, there was a little time before Carroll could get the projector up so everyone was just chatting. I remember Justin was laughing about some broken chair next to him. He was so funny and I was laughing so hard. I’m sure that that was one of the hardest times I have ever laughed. Him and Coach Carroll were also talking about this movie called Pride and also Coach Carroll was congratulating him on bringing Samuel L. Jackson to the school. Then, Coach Carroll told us that we were going to get into the pool. I remember being so excited because Justin and me were in the same lane.  I had never talked to him but he kept on making me laugh so hard and I know if we ever had the chance we would be the best of friends. He kept on joking about how cold the pool was and how he didn’t want to get in. A few minutes in they made him go into some of the faster lanes because he was way faster than al of us in the slow lane. I just told myself I would talk to him after practice no big deal. And then the unthinkable happened. I just remember telling myself “He is going to be okay, everything is fine”. And then when I got the email I could barely breathe. All I could say is “He was right there… I saw him… he was okay…. I remember how supportive everyone was on Monday. I was in Vocal Ensemble at the time and I had just finished talking to my dean so I was a little late to class. I was about to tell Ms. Burtchaell why I was late but all she did was hug me and she said while she was hugging me and crying “I love you”. I don’t know what I would do without her. She let me stay in the choir room after Vocal Ensemble, since I had a free, with the Madrigals. Ms. Burtchaell talked about Justin and how he was in Madrigals too. The Madrigals started singing a song called Voces Lucis. I have never heard the madrigals sound so beautiful and it was all for Justin. When I went to the vigil I had never seen a place so full of love and compassion. His friends sang beautiful songs for him and your Husband sang Our Father so beautifully. It inspired me to learn more about this incredible boy. When I was looking around heard his beautiful voice in the recording of Tomorrow from Annie and it’s all right. I dedicated my swim season to Justin and tried to do the best I could. When I finally learned to do the butterfly, the right way, I was overjoyed! Coach Carroll was so proud that he let me do the 50 butterfly for JV at the Championships! After school ended I decided to go to this choir camp at Idyllwild because I heard my new choral teacher, Mr. Guerrero was faculty there and a some kids from HW were going.  During this I met Adam Lange, Benny Weisman, Michelle Lee, and Landon Fadel at Idyllwild. All of them sang with Justin and always used to sing It’s all right during our breaks. I became really close with all of them. One day we where singing this song called Dawn ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn3DAJEmkQI ) our conductor starting crying. She started talking about this girl who used to sing for her and had just passed after she got Pneumonia. Immediately after this you saw all the Harvard-Westlake kids one by one starting to cry up a storm as we tried to sing it again. Benny was right in back of me and as soon as he saw me look at him and start crying and he just hugged me without saying a word as if he knew me and knew everything. We all one by one got out of out seat and went to this little stairway right next to the choir room. And we all just hugged each other and Mr. Guerrero came outside to talk us and he said “aren’t you glad you have each other?”. If I weren’t crying my face off I would have said “I am so happy to have met these people and bond with them like I have never bonded with anyone”. After this, I saw the mail about Hairspray and knew I had to audition. I worked countless hours practicing over and over my lines, songs, and dances moves. When the cast list came out and I saw Benny and I both made it, I was too happy for words. I was cast as one of Maybelle’s crew and I couldn’t be happier. I made so many friends during the time we were all practicing. As it came closer to opening night I worked I hard as I could to get everything perfect. I met with Dr. Faultus twice to go over my alto part even when he said I had it solid. When it came to opening night I was so exited and scared but I knew I had to do it for him. Each time before the performance I would hide my Justin bracelet in my pockets or under my shoe for good luck. During the last performance right before we were about to go on for “I know where I’ve Been” we all where outside and we all agreed that we had to sing the loudest and strongest we’ve ever sung it for Justin. While we were singing I Know Where I’ve Been everything finally made sense to me. From the first day I met him he’s been with me. Every time I swam he was right there cheering me on. When I was almost too scared too audition he was there with me. When I auditioned with I Know Where I’ve Been he was standing right there supporting me. And when I was on that stage he was right next to us singing with us. As I held Kennedy Green’s and Daniel Davila’s hands I felt so strong and so safe. As if nothing could tear us apart. I don’t know if you saw but everyone on that stage was crying but all of us were trying to sing as loudly and beautifully as we could through those tears. I have never felt anymore love than I felt on that stage that night. After the song Zita hugged me and I was so happy. That was the happiest night of my life so far. And it was all because of Justin.

 

Every heart he has touched has become a better person because of him. He showed me how to be “Big Blonde and Beautiful”, how to do the Madison, and has taught me the most important lessons of all …To love and be loved. To hug everyone as if this could be the last. To sing and dance like nobody’s watching. That you’re never fully dressed without a smile. And that being yourself is the best you, you can be. You may not remember this but when you came around and hugged me and I started crying, you didn’t say, “Who are you?” or “and why are you crying you didn’t even know him”; you said “It’s okay, It all right”. And you loved me without even knowing who I was. You and him and your husband have changed my life forever and I cannot thank you enough for that. So thank you. Thank you for hugging me. Thank you for loving me even though you didn’t know me. You and your husband were the best parents Justin could ever hope for. If I could talk to Justin just one I would thank him for letting me into his dream. Thank you, your husband and Justin for being my angels in disguise.

 

Love and Peace,                                                                                                  Nina Juarez (Motormouth’s Gang Member)

 

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Darrell, Nina and Grant
Darrell, Nina and Grant

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…

http://www.hw.com/News-Archives/ctl/ArticleView/mid/5389/articleId/10926/Paralympian-Blake-Leeper-Visits-Harvard-Westlake

Darrell and Blake Leeper
Darrell and Blake Leeper

 

 

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nba-celebrity-all-star-games-first-paralympic-athlete/

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

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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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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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Every Day is Mother’s Day for Me Turquoise, Butterflies, Random Acts of Kindness, are all that I See

The Color Turquoise

Justin loved the vibrant color turquoise. It meant so much to him since he often used this color in his drawings, paintings, and sculptures and it was often his choice of color in his tee shirts. Today, after looking up the various meanings of this color, I can see why it meant so much to him, as it now does for me. “Seeing turquoise recharges our spirits during times of mental stress and tiredness, alleviating feelings of loneliness. You only have to focus on the color turquoise, and you feel instant calm and gentle invigoration, ready to face the world again! It also means: refreshing, calming, sophisticated, energy, wisdom, serenity, wholeness, creativity, emotional balance, good luck, spiritual grounding, friendship, love, joy, tranquility, patience, intuition, and loyalty.”

The Butterfly

Butterfly is the symbol of change, the soul, creativity, freedom, joy and colour. Their power is transformation, shape shifting and soul evolution.

Mothers Day, The Day of the Turquoise Butterfly

I had to remind myself that every day is Mother’s Day! I will always be known as “Justin Carr’s Mom” and I will love and cherish forever the memory of all the precious moments we shared together and as a family. Daily, I will mention and remember the sweet sound of music that resonates with his name.

Today, more than most days, my heart is heavy, trying to block out all the commercial advertisement that comes along with this day to honor all Mothers. But I also know that once a mother, you are always a mother. I must somehow face and embrace the flurry when all future holidays and celebrations come and go. Thankfully, I don’t stand-alone. I have Darrell lifting me up and a feast of friends and family who willingly have erected themselves around us to protect, reinforce and envelope us with love. These are indeed blessings.

I was taught early on from the best of the best, my beloved mother, Melvia Toler. She taught me to “be a little lady, to be skillful, creative and helpful and literally how to make lemonade out of lemons. When she left this earth, my siblings started calling me “ Mama Sue.” When I attended college, my friends also enduringly calling me “Mama Sue” I guess because I watched out for them, made sure they had food, made sure they came home safely from dates, and gave them advice (as I had to learn) on how to survive away from home. I guess, I can’t help having the spirit of caring and giving; it’s the maternal instinct in me. So, I now must claim it. Thank you Mom.

I also realize that you don’t have to birth a child to be a mother, nor does your child have to still be on this earth to claim the title. Any woman that gives her love, support and nurturing ways to any child, is a mother from the heart. Justin had a lot of mothers outside of our home that took him under their wings and watched over him wherever he went. I am grateful for all of you.

I tell you, it has been hard for me to find the words from within over the past few weeks and I have been unable to communicate my feelings. Should I call it writers block or just keep it real and just say that it is infinite heartbreak? I am writing now because I felt compelled.

Just a few minutes ago, I opened a gift that was given to me by my “new” friend Diane who just came into my life. She unfortunately has suffered a major loss in her life. Her beautiful daughter Katherine also prematurely and suddenly left this earth. Without warning I have leaned on Diane (and other sisters who have lost a child) for her wisdom and strength on how to get up and move each day and to walk in faith, live in love and never ever forget our precious angels who must now live through us.

The outside of the card Diane gave to me said in turquoise letters:

“ Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”. Justin’s favorite stroke in swimming was the butterfly, the hardest no doubt.

The quotable magnet that also came with the gift said: “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder”… (Thoreau)

Inside the box was a beautiful turquoise baccarat crystal butterfly. The sight of this precious masterpiece of art set me back a notch. The tears rolled down my cheeks and I had to retreat and take a breath. It amazes me how someone else can step away from their inner pain and selflessly reach out and make someone else smile. I have no words. What a way to make my day. Thank you Diane for such a thoughtful gift of love for me. A few weeks ago Diane and I realized that the turquoise butterfly now has deeper meaning for both of us.

Note that all the following events are true, and came to me in the exact chronological order. I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!!

1. Shout out Request from Mary

Mary Martin, my best friend since 1st grade, and fellow Girl Scout called me a few weeks ago. When we were 9 years old, Mary and Sharon McInerny and I went to a neighborhood in San Francisco called St. Francis Woods, to sell cookies. I went to this house, knocked on the door and an old Caucasian woman opened the door. I politely asked, “Do you want to buy and cookies?” She meanly said, “No!” and slammed the door in my face. Minutes later, I saw Mary about to knock on the same door and I said, “Mary, don’t go there, she does not want to buy any cookies.” To my chagrin, the woman opened up the door and with the brightest smile said to Mary: “Sure honey,” When Mary came hopping joyfully down the stairs, I told her what the woman did to me, and we quickly went home to Mary’s house where we cried together along with her mom due to the aftermath of this blatant racism which for me was my first encounter.

Mary called me on April 16, 2014. She told me that the night before, she was out in her yard watering and she looked up to the heavens and shouted “Justin please give your Mother a sign”

2. Justin and the Universe

Later that day, I received an email from Denise, a mother whom I met when Justin was in 6th grade. I have not seen her in 6 years. Her son and Justin briefly attended the same middle school together. She wrote me the following email in response to an invitation to attend the upcoming concert in honor of Justin:

 

“Hi Susan,

Thanks for your note. I don’t know if I will be able to attend the concert, but here’s the strange thing: I was just about to write a note to you after a very long time. Based on what I was going to write, and now hearing from you, I’m reminded that there are some beautiful mysteries in our world, that’s for sure.

Yesterday evening I was walking my dog through the neighborhood. He is a pit bull, probably the friendliest pit bull that ever lived, but I’m used to people stepping away from him as he tugs at his leash. Usually, his whole body is wagging, hoping to get a pet from anyone we pass. But I always hold him back, out of courtesy.

I must have been lost in thought as we walked, because I didn’t see the boy sitting on the curb texting. Before I knew it, my dog was a few inches from him, about to lick him on the side of his face. The boy looked up silently and smiled at me (not at my dog). My heart skipped a beat and in my head I said “Justin?” It was his face, his smile, and his expression. I almost cried in those few seconds until he looked down again at his phone.

I hadn’t seen Justin since he was about 12 and this boy was about the same age. Back then, Zayn and Justin were both big boys, they hadn’t yet grown tall and thinned out. So this boy’s body was smaller, and seemed even smaller since he was sitting and curled over his phone. But the face, the expression, and the way he looked right at me … it was just amazing.

Instead of going around another block, when I got to the end of the street I turned around to go back the same way, to pass him again – but he was gone. On the one hand, it feels like a blip, a coincidence that I saw Justin in this boy. But however, it reminded me of the connections we all have to each other, to all life and to lives we have known, connections across this universe that we don’t fully understand.

Denise

I know it’s not the miracle your heart aches for. I don’t know why I saw that boy and saw Justin in him. Why me? Why Justin? Why yesterday and then you write to me today?

It is unknowable, but it IS something wonderful.”

3. The Turquoise Butterfly

Around noon that same day, I happened to call Diane. I left her a message because I had to go to a hair appointment because I was going to the school in celebration of the seniors on the Swim Team. She texted me when I was in the salon and this is the message she sent:

“Saw this on my daughter’s closet this morning.  Never saw it before today even though I walk by this spot almost daily. Notice the turquoise! ! I felt like she was acknowledging that you and I needed something a little special today.  We are loved.  Xoxo Diane “

Next to the email was a picture of a turquoise butterfly that her young daughter had once drawn on the wall in her closet at some time gone by. I was speechless, I texted her that my friend Mary had just called me that morning telling me that she asked Justin to send me some signs.

4. Hair Salon

After looking at the text from Diane over and over again,  I sat there stunned, in a place I had never been inside before.  The hairdresser asked me was I going somewhere special and why did I seem so uneasy? I told him briefly that Justin was being honored along with his teammates on the swim team. He said great. But his expression quickly changed when I told him the backstory on the demise of Justin. After he finished my hair, he embraced me and walked me to the front cashier turned and walked away. When I tried to pay for the service, the attendant said. “ Oh, Michael did your hair for free.” I started crying and said, “OMG, Where is he”, she said, “ He is gone, he left for lunch” just that quickly. “ This has never happened to me. I went looking for him and he had left the building. A random act of kindness

5. Flowers from the best Florist in town delivered to my Door

 At the end of the day upon returning home with my heart so full there was a knock on the door. It was a delivery from Jacob Maarse, Justin’s favorite florist and the best in town. To my surprise, the beautiful orchid was from Lisa, a class mother whom I have shared a few conversations with over years. I immediately wrote to her:

“Lisa,

I cried on my way home after I saw you a few days ago. Do you know why?

I was grateful that you greeted me with a warm embrace and a smile (When I know how hard it is for people to find the words) I can write a book about all the people in our life who have run the opposite way when they see us or even neighbors who live mere blocks away who have chosen to stay away because the loss of my precious baby Justin is too much for them to bear…  But, I can also say that we have so many people like you, who have chosen to walk with us and embrace us during this life long journey.

I was so glad that your friend who was with you whispered Justin’s name and told me that she thinks of me often even though she did not know me.  I need to talk about Justin every day.

It’s that universal love of a lost that is so impactful and the infinite love a mother will always have for her child.

Today, the doorbell just rang and I was greeted with a beautiful orchid plant from our and “Justin’s favorite Florist”  Jacob Maarse.  He brought his date Kelly’s corsage for the semi formal a few years ago, he was planning on buying his date Channel who graduated from HW last year her corsage from there.  Instead she decided to go solo, so I had to get her corsage and had them add a picture of Justin on it. Oh the memories…

Thank you my dear friend. We will keep this orchid alive. Justin would water the plants and told us how to keep them going. I will certainly try.

All my best to your son Ross as he makes his college choices. You should be proud! I am smiling. You made my day. Love, Susan”

Lisa told me she knows how days could be without your departed loved ones and she wanted to just brighten my day.  She said I was thoughtful that I cared enough to ask about her son.

The turquoise butterfly landed this Mothers Day and Every Day!

These pieces of joy help me get through the day. It’s the thought that people, even strangers, feel and empathize with my state of mind and try in their own way to make my seemingly sad day brighter.

It is true, every time I see a butterfly or the color turquoise, I think of my baby Justin, my pride and joy. Seeing these brings me some relief in the moments of the day.

So for me, every day is Mothers Day. I have no regrets on how I mothered Justin. I gave all that I had to him. Most days were joyous and on the days that were too much, I’m glad that we got through them with the unconditional love and respect that would  always supersede anything else.

At this juncture, I can’t ask for much more than that.

I will try to be as happy as I can, as I wake up each morning and try to put my feet on the ground.

Justin, my butterfly keep soaring and guiding me in all the days of my life. I will love you always, and I will love you forever. As long as I’m living, my baby you will be.

Justin, I will love you today, and tomorrow and all the days of my life. Someday, my days will not be as cloudy and the Sun, you my vibrant Son will come out and live through me.

I listened to your beautiful voice today as you sang “Tomorrow”

I love you Justin..

The Turquoise Butterfly and Justin soar among us…

 

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved

Real Butterfly Flew on Darrell in Arizona
Real Butterfly Flew on Darrell in Arizona
Precious Katherine's Butterfly that her mom Diane just noticed
Precious Katherine’s Butterfly that her mom Diane just noticed
Justin kissing his Mom on Mother's Day 1998
Justin kissing his Mom on Mother’s Day 1998
Justin swimming his favorite butterfly stroke in a meet
Justin swimming his favorite butterfly stroke in a meet
Justin wanted to get her flowers from his favorite Jacob Marse Florist
Justin wanted to get her flowers from his favorite Jacob Marse Florist

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FORGET-ME- NOT

Forget-me-not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forget-me-not

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

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

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

Justin was a forget-me-not for sure!!!!
NOTICE:  This message (including any attachments) is protected by law.

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LET IT BE…..

Today, I heard some of Justin’s friends sing beautiful songs for a Benefit.  All the songs brought tears to my eyes because I could only imagine Justin singing with them those sweet sounds of music.  They sang two Beatle Songs” “Let it Be” and “Yesterday” OMG I so wish for the yesteryears when all my troubles seem so far away….

 

I wrote this in the Fall of 2013

 

LET IT BE!

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

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

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

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

“Let It Be”

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

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

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

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

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/video/9192544-parents-struggle-with-sudden-death-of-teen-son-who-collapsed-in-harvard-westlake-pool/

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

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

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

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

http://www.hwchronicle.com/news/students-to-voluntarily-teach-weekend-arts-classes-at-public-school-in-honor-of-carr/

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another gift to cherish…

 

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

Giselle Etessami 2/3/14 Personal Poem

HEAVENS NEW ANGEL

I don’t know very much about you

But when I heard you left my world turned askew

I know more of your death than of your life

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

Your eyes were black onyx but beneath the sight

Was a glittering light that never shined so bright

You, dear Justin, have inspired me to give

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

You’ll never know how many lives you have changed

But between you and me, there was a peace exchanged

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

But your passing has altered my spirits all the same

I honor you Justin I hope you know this

I hope you know just how much you are missed

Thank you for living, just you was enough

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

I hear your voice in the acoustics’ strum

I feel your power in the beat of a drum

The light in your eyes is a light that lives on

I see your face in the tears of your mom

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

Compared to your wisdom, I am a mere zero

No words can express just how perfect you are

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

You were the best, too good to be true

That’s why G-d decided he needed you

You live on, not in human form

But in the divinity of the celestial storm

You will not be forgotten, this I promise you

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

On February 22, an angel took flight

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

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

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Poems Written for Justin Carr-Wants World Peace by Charlie Campbell

In times when I feel bad, I have to smile knowing what a difference “Justin’s Story” has made to people who did not even know him.  We got this email a few weeks ago…  Thank you Charlie for finding the words.

On Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 11:29 AM,  Charlie wrote:

Hi, my name is Charlie Campbell and I am currently a junior.  This past winter, I had the privilege of going to Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC.)  It was there, in Washington D.C., where I heard and was moved by Justin’s story and dreams. When I got back to school.  I was greeted with a “Changing The World” project, where each individual picks a controversial topic that they are passionate about, and writes two poems about the topic, and also makes two visual art pieces to go with these poems. At the conclusion of the project, everyone chooses a charity that focuses on their specific topic to donate their work to. Considering that SDLC was the biggest reason I chose equality, and how moved I was by Justin’s story in particular, I couldn’t think of a better place to donate my work than the organization named after Justin. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of knowing Justin, but based off of what I’ve heard I think he would like my work, and I would be honored to give my work to his organization. So, if this is okay with whoever is reading this email (hopefully Mr. and Mrs. Carr themselves), then please email me back!

From: Susan Carr [justincarrwwp@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2014 3:46 PM
To: Campbell, Charles
Subject: Re: SDLC

Charles, we are honored that you want to donate your work to help us realize Justin’s dream for World Peace.  This is one way that Justin will live through all of us.   Thank you for taking the time to keep Justin’s vision moving across the world.

In Peace and Love,

Susan Carr aka Justin’s Mom forever

Please visit the web site  www.justincarrwantsworldpeace.org<http://www.justincarrwantsworldpeace.org> to learn more about Justin this young renaissance man.

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Carr,

I can only imagine how hard it is to come speak in front of thousands of people about your son, but I wanted to make sure you both know that it IS making a difference. No matter how hard it is, you can’t stop, because you’re making a positive impact on people everywhere, including me. Again, I never had the honor of knowing your son, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he is smiling down on you both from a better place, and he is proud of everything you’re doing in his name.
Thank you so much,
Charlie Campbell

Charlie Campbell

We Are All Purple People

 

I hand my five year old a box of crayons,

And an off-white sheet of parchment paper.

Expecting him to draw some silly clowns,

Or perhaps a mighty sword and saber.

 

As I stand above him he begins to draw,

Deciding the purple marker to withdraw.

It’s wax strikes back an forth like a saw.

At his color choice I am stricken with awe.

 

Figures soon come to life across the page,

Holding hands, purple hands.

People drawn of all shapes and age,

Tightly gripped, together they stand.

 

“Why not use brown,

Or black,

Or white?”

I ask, confused at this single colored sight.

He turns and says, “We all kinda look the same,

Depending on the light.”

Could it be that my toddler had shed new light?

I thought about what he said and gained a new insight,

We’re all purple people and maybe if we unite,

We could finally see what’s wrong and make it right.

 

 

Charlie Campbell

Blind

Without smell,

We wouldn’t know the true beauty of a fresh cut rose.

Without taste,

We wouldn’t know how to enjoy our favorite comfort foods.

Without touch,

We couldn’t feel a mother’s comforting embrace.

Without hearing,

We couldn’t hear children blissfully playing in a sandbox.

 

Each of these a sensory hindrance

However;

Absence of last bears no such penitence

 

Without sight,

We see no skin color, no distinction of hue,

We see no size or shape in people’s features.

We see no physical difference between me and you,

Only darkness, a humbling teacher.

In the absence of light,

We have no capability for prejudice.

For in the absence of sight

Comes tumbling down a looming racial edifice.

 

With honest intent and peace of mind,

I often feel we’re better off blind.

________________________________________

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Touched By An Angel

Last Saturday, I was overwhelmed after receiving thoughtful and cherished gifts in memory of my butterfly Justin. I got a beautiful picture of Justin that his friend Anna took of him when he was in the 7th grade; and she was in the 8th.  The innocent and angelic look on his face just set me back, it was beautiful.   I will post later. Justin’s Art Teacher, Ms. Hall, also brought us two beautiful pieces of commissioned art related to Justin.

I also spoke to Justin’s MS Choral teacher  Ms. Burtchaell and we talked about when I wrote her when Justin was in the 6th grade about to attend H-W. The entering 7th graders had to pick between a choral or musical instrument for class. Justin chose his voice as his instrument and wanted to make sure that there were other boys taking choral, he did not want to be the only one.  Ms. Burtchaell told me “ Justin can take anything that he wanted and that at H-W we allow our students to choose their craft and  “to be and do what they want.”  Justin , my angel baby loved to sing wanted to make sure that other boys where going to sing so he would not be alone. Before I went to sleep that night,  I got a message from  a young lady named Lora who attended the Student Diversity and Leadership Conference  (SDLC) in Washington, DC this year.  I had never met her before. When she told me that she lived on a street with the meaning of  “butterfly”, I could hardly breathe. She had no ideal about the significance of what “Butterfly” means to us!!!

I was so touched by the following message delivered by Lora last week:

“Everything happens for a reason. That’s what everyone always says. But sometimes, it is so hard to understand why. Why has a boy, so young, so talented, with so much to offer to this world been prematurely taken from it? The world needs more people like Justin. People who care. But the steps you have taken in his name, to carry on his dream are laudable. I have a picture, very similar to the one you just sent me with Dr. Harris. Justin and I probably stood in that exact same line together, waiting to get a photograph. This year, before I had even heard you speak, I hung back to be able to get the last photograph and conversation with our keynote speaker. Justin was a wonderful human being. He was a role model. Always leading by example and a beautiful example too.

Full of compassion, kindness, respect, and most of all, love. I am honored that you chose to share all these memories with me. Although I did not know Justin personally, at SDLC, we are all family. Justin was part of my SDLC family, and thus a part of me. I know I am just a student but if you would ever like to share more memories, I would love to hear them. I’m here to listen and support you in any way you can. I have so much respect for all that you are doing in your beloved Justin’s name.”

That night I could hardly sleep, but fortunately, I was able to have my first dream about my baby and it was as real as it could be.  I was able to pick Justin out of my dream and hug his sweet face.

Lora came by today and we met and talked a bit. Later she told me that she searched the Internet and realized that Justin’s Celebration was held at the church she grew up in.  She was also a member of the choir. Then she saw the video that was produced a few days after Justin’s service by a Videographer

Chad Michael whom we did not know at all.

This evening Lora confirmed the following in a message to me:

I am sure you have seen this, and watching it again probably is tough hard right now, but I just want you to know that I believe the Peace on Earth song that is played occasionally throughout the video is sung by me and my choir”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzQ7klQFBKo

So the following facts still stand:

  • Lora met Justin briefly at the SDLC conference in 2012
  • Lora heard us speak at the SDLC conference in Justin’s honor in 2013 and felt compelled to reach out to me last week
  • Lora grew up on a street that means “Butterfly”
  • I met Lora for the first time today
  • Last year Justin was the last one to take a picture with the keynote speaker at the conference
  • This year Lora was the last one to take a picture with the keynote speaker
  • Today she realized her personal connection to her church where she grew up in and sang in the choir; it was the same church we held Justin’s service  because of it’s size and beauty
  • She also realized that her voice is in the background of the video that was made a few days after Justin’s service by someone we did not know, in honor of Justin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzQ7klQFBKo
  • Lora auditioned for Annie and sang “Tomorrow” a few years ago
  • Justin sang “Tomorrow” for an audition when he was 13 years old  http://youtu.be/mBkDrCr5wIQ
  • Justin was an “Earth angel” according the Chef Lisa Dahl who we met in Sedona. Chef said that our Justin was just like her only son “Justin” who died while being a Good Samaritan.  Chef Lisa was my “Tess” from the old series “Touched by an Angel”
  • Lora’s visit soothed my soul today with her infinite wisdom, kind words about my Justin, depth of love and quest for fair treatment and inclusion of everyone.
  • She told me “Although she is just a student, she would walk by my side if I ever need support.”  Today, my newest “Guardian Angel” Lora touched me and left me speechless….
  • This blue butterfly did fly on Darrell when we were in Phoenix

No more words, and I can’t make this up.

Crazy, Synchronistic, I don’t know what to say. But I will take it so I can sleep peacefully tonight.  I will continue to listen to the sweet music of my baby’s name and songs he left for us to hear as often as we can.

Thank you Lora!!!!!

Love, you Justin!!!!!

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved

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YES WE CAN – YES YOU CAN – YES I CAN

I have not been able to sit and watch any sort of TV or movies in months. Last night, I decided to try and watch President Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) address and also get a glimpse of my friend Portia Collins son Jason who sat near First Lady, Michelle Obama as her guest. As the SOTU began, I immediately got nostalgic because in the past, I would sit comfortably in the sun room along with Darrell and Justin and we would watch and listen, as a family, to the coverage of elections and whenever the President spoke.

Justin loved history and politics and was able to have a great teacher, Mr. Newhart in 7thgrade during the initial Obama Election. I clearly remember how stressed I was on Election Day November 6, 2012. I was so nervous and could barely do anything. Later in the evening when the President was re-elected, Justin posted on his Facebook (FB) page: “I knew Obama won when I felt the thumps from praise dancing upstairs….” We laughed after he showed us all the “Likes” he got from his post. It was funny and true; I was dancing up a storm after that victory! Darrell also told Justin that he had the opportunity to be the President of the United States. When Justin looked at Darrell in disbelief, Darrell firmly said: “Yes you Can!”

All of the topics that were to be addressed in the SOTU hit home. No doubt the aggregate of the issues will somehow affect every American citizen at some stage in their life. I honestly got a knot in my throat when the President began to talk about the plans and goals for Education. All that Darrell and I could do, as we glanced over at each other, was shed a few tears and shake our heads because that dream of ours for Justin’s higher education was beyond deferred it will never be heard. However, we did firmly agree that since we knew the importance of Education (that was instilled in us by our parents) we were so glad that we were able to give Justin the best; even if it meant to switch institutions to find the right fit for him. We often told Justin that “ Yes you can follow your dreams and goals.” Furthermore, we also know that the majority of American students do not always have such a choice to choose the best education that others are fortunate to have. Our public education system is floundering and sometimes kids are unfortunately being passed through the system.

I was glad to be interrupted by the ringing sound of the phone and so I left the room. It was my niece Laureina -who recently graduated from UC Berkeley and who chose to work in one of the most dreadful spots of our country as an English Teacher in rural Arkansas. I asked her if she was watching the SOTU and she said no, she was getting ready for her next day. Due to the aftermath of a colleague leaving, she had inherited yet another class to teach 8th grade English, and she now had over 110 students.

She called to tell me that she has seen a tremendous difference in “her” kids reading abilities and that today she gave them each a bookmark that her mom Susan had made (using Justin’s infamous “Happy to see the sun” painting.) She also showed them the recent video of the student who won the Art Contest to Monaco from the school that Justin adopted to help along with his peers from school. Laureina told me that she wanted to give her students hope that their dreams can be heard. She tells them that “ Yes. They can do better. Yes. They can read, and Yes. She will help them. They said: “ Ms. Toler, you know so many famous people.”

JCWWP Dare 2 Dream Workshop

Unfortunately, she said the big difference is that these kids never see anything positive on TV. They see crime daily and at a minimum weekly, they know someone in their family or someone that they know has been impacted or afflicted with crime. So, they come to school with extra burdens, they have heavy loads on their mind and they are numb with even thinking about hope.

Laureina said: “Auntie, Justin was too much and is still impacting people who never even knew him. It is so powerful that people continue to tell you often about what Justin meant to them, even if they never met him. How do you feel when you get feedback? “ I told her, “I love it when people reach out to me and Darrell to tell us about their connection to feelings of Justin. It does the mind and body good. Really! It helps me get through the day. So how do you keep hope alive? Justin’s goals and dreams will now have to live through us and through all of you.”

Laureina, Justin and Maurita

As for my niece, she takes her job seriously and is making strides in her quest to be the “best teacher” she can be. Last week she posted this last week on FB:

this last week on FB:

“That simple, yet epic moment when one 8th grader who avoided reading at the beginning of the year interrupts teacher reading to ask if he can read the next paragraph to the class. This could all mean 1) he really wasn’t feeling my reading voice OR 2) his reading/ confidence is growing. I’ll take either one! We call that progress, baby!” Laureina

I feel that my badge of motherhood has been stripped from my heart. I have to tell myself that I will always be a mother “ Yes you can” be the surrogate mother to so many others who need your guidance and love; just like I gave to Justin.

As I write this message, I could not help but reflect back to last week when I was walking with Amber down a unpaved trail when I saw ahead of me a mother carrying a newborn baby close to her heart. As I looked down, I at her feet, I noticed that the mother’s shoe was untied. I immediately yelled, “ Hey mother with the new baby stop, your shoe is untied. “ I walked towards her and said, “ Stick your foot out so I can tie your shoe. “ She immediately asked me “ Are you a Mother? “ Amber was horrified. I calmly told her “ My only son recently died.” She did not know what to say. She said choking on her words, “I’m sorry.” Since I was wearing Ambers HW visor, the mother said, “ Was he the swimmer from Harvard-Westlake? My brother went there. Do you know Portia Collins?” I said, “Yes that was my son Justin and Yes, I know Portia, and she is my friend.” She then gave me a hug. I gave her a card with Justin’s picture on it. She said, “Thank you.” We parted because quite frankly, there were no other words.

When I got home, I emailed Portia and told her about my encounter. She said she knew the lady, and that her sons Jarron and Jason went to HW with her brother. The next day, Portia sent me the following response from a dialogue she had with another friend.

“Gloria, My friend was on a walk in the canyons. She noticed a very nice young mother carrying a very small baby girl walking down the hill in front of her. My friend stopped the young mother (a total stranger) and told her that her shoe is untied and as she mentioned it to the young mother, she began to tie the shoe all-in-one-motion.

The young mother was shocked that my friend had bent over and tied the shoe so quickly. The young mother asked my friend if she had children of her own. My friend, proudly said, “Yes, I had one child but he suddenly passed away almost a year ago.” The young mother was startled by my friend’s honesty and really had no words other than to express her immediate and sincere sorrow.

My friend was wearing a visor. The young mother noticed the HW logo on the visor and she desperately wanted to change the subject, so she asked my friend if she knew Portia Collins?

Well, my friend is Susan Carr and the young mother on the walk today is Vanessa Karubian. Vanessa proudly said that her brother graduated from HW and that he went to high school with Portia Collins’ sons. Susan, exclaimed, ‘That’s my Girl which is an affectionate expression often used amongst sister-friends.

My point: You never know where your reputation will surface so try and make a good impression with every touch with those you know well and with total strangers….” Portia

Gloria wrote back to Portia:

“Portia, This is a great story, thanks for sharing. We all know you never know where you will meet a stranger with so many connections to friends. That little girl’s name is Stella, which was my Mom’s name and I think fondly of my mother every time I see them. I often think of Susan and whisper a prayer for her family.

Gloria”

I often ponder on how I will respond to that question “ Do you have kids?” Because it is bound to come up over and over again. It took me back to the book “I love you forever” that still rests on the bookshelf that my friend Tona gave me when I was pregnant with Justin. I, in turn, have given it to dozens of friends. Tonight, I had to pull it out and read it and of course cry. It is a story about a young mother who watches over her son from birth until he became a grown man. Each night she would sneak into his room, no matter what age he was, hold and rock her son and say to him “ I love you forever, I love you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” When she got to old to care for herself, her son would sneak into her room and hold her each night. You know the night before Justin left this Earth, I was lying on his bed and I told him to help me up. He said, “ Mom, you know you can get up. When you get old, there will be a time when I will have to help you up, but not now!” He said I love you, I told him “ I love you too!” So glad I did. But now, everyone out there, we are going to need you to help hold us up as we walk this road. Yes, you can!

President Obama-Yes you can be the leader of our United States, Portia-Yes You Can be the proud Mother of your sons Jarron and Jason, Laureina -Yes You Can be the best Teacher that “ Your” students can have and so desperately need. Yes, I can stop to help a stranger. Everyone alive you have the opportunity to say ‘Yes I can!” to do everything positive that is at your fingertips. Yes, I will proudly say yes I am a mother and I will always be Justin’s mother and for as long as I’m living Justin, my baby, you will be!