Wednesday, September 5, 2018

24th Birthday

My cousin Laurence would have turned 24 today, if it weren't for cancer.  That's a hard concept for me to grasp, considering he was just 15 at the time that he died. 15, but known for being a humanitarian and a philanthropist. 15, with a passion for cooking, playing guitar, and soccer. There are so many paths that Laurence could have taken.

When I was 24, I was working my first "real" full time job. I'll never forget when a friend called me, celebrating the news that I got a job, and she shrieked "You have a door for your office and EVERYTHING?". It was all so exciting. According to my Timehop, on this very day when I was 24, I was making my dad watch Stomp The Yard with me. I was back living with my parents after a year of volunteer service, it wouldn't be until 5 months later that I moved out to live with a friend in a rental house. It just seems surreal to me that Laurence could be doing those very things right now. Although let's be honest, he would probably be the CEO of a nonprofit fighting against poverty, not watching Stomp the Yard at his parents house.

I miss Laurence deeply, he and I had a special bond and it is one that has continued since he passed. But I'll be honest, I've had a hard time truly feeling him lately. I begged Laurence for a sign today, on his birthday. I wanted anything, whether it be a U2 song on the radio or seeing a Florida license plate, or maybe something spectacular in the sky. I didn't get a sign. It left me feeling a little empty and sad. I wondered if I was doing something wrong. It made me feel lonely. 

Maybe I'm just not listening. Maybe Laurence is trying to show me what I need to see, but I am so consumed with work, with the news, with Instagram, that I am not seeing the signs as I once did. 

I'm not sure if it all works that way.

But here's what I do know.

I had made a promise to myself that I would always talk about Laurence and what he did. Laurence was a brave soul, speaking up for people without a voice. I can only imagine the kind of advocacy work he would be doing if he was still here. And although I may never be as brave as that 15 year old boy with brain cancer was, I do try to carry him with me. I fight for cancer patients because I hope that I can be part of eliminating cancer, so that 15 year old boys can play soccer with their friends and create new recipes in their parents kitchen and play guitar in their basement without having to worry about getting to chemotherapy appointments or having brain surgery or signing onto hospice. His fight has powered my fuel to keep fighting to end cancer. And to make life easier for those who are battling cancer.

My signs may not be as obvious, or I may not see them as clearly as I once did with all of life's distractions, but my connection to Laurence will never lose it's spark. 

Maybe Laurence is being a little quieter right now so that I can truly grow, listen to what is inside of me and run with it. 

All of this is a great Mystery, and it's part of what makes life and death so beautiful and complicated. Aren't we so lucky to have these kinds of things to wonder about and awe over? It's incredible, how connected we all are. 

Happy 24th Birthday, Laurence. I wish you were still here on earth so that we could all be putting your campaign signs in our front yard or taste testing meals at your own restaurant or sitting in the front row at your concert. The grief of what could have been is a difficult one to handle. So we'll hold onto the beautiful impact you left while you were here. What a gift you gave us, buddy. 

Maybe you and my dad could watch Stomp The Yard tonight. And yes, Dad, I heard the thunder as I wrote that. Nice dad joke.

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