Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Charmin’ Carmen

And now for something completely different...

This morning my eight-year-old daughter came downstairs for breakfast wearing a “Carmen Young Annual Track Meet” t-shirt, one of the medals she won at that track meet a few years ago1 and her usual gorgeous, morning smile.

She stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t just the darling little jack-o-lantern grin that gave me pause. You see, Carmen Young is my sister and she died ten years before my daughter was born. And today would have been her 34th birthday.

The logical/scientific part of my brain really doesn’t want to believe in religion or an afterlife. But in my heart, I know that Carmen and my other loved ones are out there, in some form, somewhere.

For me, it boils down to this: when you lose someone you love, it’s a comfort to think they still exist beyond our mortal existence. But when you lose someone so very young (Carmen was 15), you have to believe they go on. It’s the only way I can go on.

And how beautiful is it that Carmen has some cosmic connection with my daughter?

I miss Carmen every day and will for the rest of my life. She was larger than life—vivacious and pretty and smart and passionate. She knew how to find your weaknesses and drive you crazy with them—a talent she possessed from a very early age. (Like, 2? No joke!) She was dramatic and hilarious and loved her family and friends with every molecule of her being. She wanted to be special and be a star, while being just a normal girl doing regular girl stuff. She would have been a professional actress had she grown up. She would have loved my daughter beyond all things.

She loves my daughter beyond all things.

Carmen was a fighter—sweet Jeebus, was she a fighter. She fought for her life and never gave up, and she fought for other people’s lives through her advocacy of organ donation.

So when my daughter comes down in full Carmen regalia, with no clue whatsoever that it’s her never-met aunt’s birth date, I have to cry a little and smile a lot. And I know: she’s still here.

So, in honour of Carmen’s birthday, please sit down with your family this week and discuss organ donation. As she used to say, I promise someone will take good care of your gift.

And you’ll make one tough little Cape Bretoner very proud, wherever she might be...

1. Some days she wears a purple rose or peacock feather in hair, some days she wears a medal around her neck. Yesterday she went on a field trip dressed as an Lebanese immigrant.2 She’s eight. I love it.

2. Which was a bit tough to pull of with the blond hair and blue eyes, but she performed admirably.


Jen MacEachern said...

Wonderful post... Carmen was indeed very special :)

Paula said...

OMG Jodi,

It wasn't enough for me to have so many flash backs of Carmen today. Yet as I stand and prepare supper, I thought I would sign in to see what was happening on FB. I then come to your blog.

I cannot believe it has been so long, it seems like yesterday.

Carmen remains as dear to me today as she did when she was here. The little glasses, the skinny legs, the bobbed hair. Her smiles, her temper, her ability to tease and to play the trumpet so well (lol as if).She would have excelled had she been granted the time. Heck she is perhaps playing circles around us today and laughing at the lack of sense we seem to make so many days. (like me now. Dam I am crying!)

Thank god she had such drive, such determination and such a personality and that touched so many. Many of whom we will never know.

Carmen, Happy Birtday and thank you for being my friend :)

Hugs today, tomorrow and each day there after.

:) Love Paula

Kim Good said...

No better gift than organ donation. Don't just check the boxes on your Medical card, TALK TO YOUR LOVED ONES! So important.

Gary lives on too.....

Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Jodi, I came across this from Tanya White's fb status and of course I happen to be having a glass of rum watching idol and I read this and I want you to know that it brought me back to a place many years ago where Carmen and Brianne were sitting under the bleachers, at a ballgame where your uncle Trevor was playing!! They were very young and I remember seeing them playing in the sand and it breaks my heart to know she isn't here anymore:( I remember her in grade primary when we looked after tot lot:) I want you to know that she meant so much to so many people here in is small town and she will never be forgotten:)
Beth Johnston

Jodi R. said...

Thanks Jenny - she certainly was - which helps her live on forever!

Paula - whenever I think of you and Carmen together, I ALWAYS think of you driving Mom's Tercel down Pierce Street with all those stop signs, and the stuttering and jerking along with the stick shift - oh my God how she laughed! And, of course, who could EVER forget her choreographing your carnival talent dance thingee to Janet Jackson. Holy frigg. Was that really 23 years ago?!?!!?!?

Kim - you are so right. Your card essentially means nothing - it all comes down to what your family knows about your wishes. So yes, yes, yes - everyone PLEASE talk with your family. I've met several organ donor families over the years and I have yet to find one that regretted their decision. I hope you take great pride and comfort in knowing that Gary does indeed live on, even beyond your own heart. <<>>

Beth - what a lovely memory! I can so picture that scene! (The Little Legue Giants - woohoo!) We know WE will never forget Carmen - you have no idea how much it comforts us to know that so many people - like you - remember her so vividly as well. It means a lot - thanks!

Love to all!

Plante-Fitch said...

She had you to love her like this. Xo

Jodi R. said...

Thanks "Plante-Fitch" - we couldn't help it! :~)

Anonymous said...

That was sweet and beautiful as Carmen.
I believe those who pass on don't go very far at all.
There is a comfort, and signs just like your daughter showed you they are not far! : )
Carmen was so much fun and had an amazing spirit!
Strength, Love and Light to you!

Jodi R. said...

Thanks Angela - I know you understand! xo

Barb & family xoxo said...

The Youngs have always been a very special part of my life. I grew up babysitiing all five children until I went to college.
The boys were very young and they were busy, busy kids. They loved to play with toys and watch videos every time I came over.I remember having sword fights with Nicholas and Andrew. Brianne was a free spirit and love to play dress up and tell me about how she was going to travel the world. I'm happy to see that she's out west and enjoying herself. Jodi was an amazing little girl. I remember looking into her beautiful eyes thinking how much fun her parents were going to have chasing away all the boys..ha! She used to ask me all the time if I could give her *kissing* lessons. Now I see her as a mom with a beautiful daughter of her own and I'm so happy for the way life has turned out for her family. Carmen had a special place in my heart. She used to try to preform plays while I would babysit and she always had to direct and tell the others what to do. She had a special way of finding your weak point and playing on that every time.
I'm sure none of the kids ever went to bed once on a curfew when I was there,(sorry Nancy & Brian). Carmen always saw to that. LOL!!
The most precious memory I carry of Carmen was the time she came over to Summerside to spend a week with us during her illness. I had a baby girl at the time and I remember how Carmen would read to her and sing to her. We spent a very special day on Cavendish beach and Carmen played in the sand building castles, digging
holes, swimming in the water and making Kathleen laugh. We watched the sun go down and Carmen told me someday she would be up in the sky looking over us. The pictures I have of that day make me cry every time I look at them.
Carmen taught me that unconditional love was giving what you could to help others. I am proud to say that everybody in my household is an organ donar and knows the importance of helping to save others lives.
Just yesterday I looked at her picture on my mantle and wished her a Happy Birthday.I miss her terribly... but I will always treasure those special moments. What a wonderful young lady she would be if she was here with us now.
We love you Carmen and we love all of the family like our own. Happy Birthday sweetie :o) You are one person who will never be forgotten!

Jodi R. said...

Jeez Barb - you got me going again! I so remember the headlight dash - we'd hear car coming up the driveway then boot it up the stairs to bed!

She loved babies and I know she adored Kathleen. That was such a special trip for her too... It's so comforting to know that so many of us keep her alive...

And there you have it boys - you have Barb to thank for my mad lip skillz! lol

Thanks Barb - the Landry clan has always been so much more than friends to all of us - you are the ultimate "givers" and we woudln't have made it through the good, bad and ugly times without you crazy characters!

Love to you and yours - xo

Barb said...

One more thing I have to tell you Jodi.....that for at least four years after Carmen passed away I could always here Kathleen talking in her bedroom. One night I entered Katt's bedroom she told me she was talking to Carmen and that Carmen was happy in heaven.I believe there is a world beyond and I do think Kathleen did talk to Carmen in some gave me hope to know that there was peace at last in some small way.
I never ever thought though for one second that your parents believed me when I told them you all hit the sack on time but I thank them know for letting me be so close to all of you. I love all your family and I always will :o) xoxox

Jodi R. said...


And of course Mom and Dad didn't believe we were in bed - they knew us too well! They were just glad to get a few hours away! I never took to babysitting - I never had yours or Lynn's knack for it AT ALL. I'm reasonably sure I would have ended up an only child again if I had had to babysit the sibs!!!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, you made my night. I miss her terribly and think of her often. She lives on through all of our memories and love for her. I love hearing stories like this. The boys wear those same shirts as night shirts and I love seeing them walk around with them on. We are taking them home this summer so they can participate in the track and field. Isn't it amazing that one person REALLY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.. hugs.

Jodi R. said...

Thanks Anonymous - I love hearing the stories too! We'll see you at the track meet - we are planning to go as well. Thanks!

sharon said...

Jodi, hello from Toronto. I met Carmen because of a request for good Chinese food for her which came to me from my friend Donna Thompson. I suggested a restaurant, met Carmen and became one of her visitors. As you descibe, she was a remarkable young woman and knowing her enriched my life. I am touched by your description of her. Your father called me on Carmen's birthday to tell me about it (he's justifiably proud of you). Thanks for refreshing that memory for me.
Sharon (Sharon, Lois & Bram)

Jodi R. said...

Awww - thanks Sharon! Carmen (and mom and dad) thought/think the world of you. We were very blessed to have been able to meet so many lovely people - it made our family's ordeal that much more bearable.

I did have a chance to meet you a few years ago when you did a concert here on Halifax. We went with Donna to the after party at Brooks Diamond's place where I remember MOUNDS of lobster that never seemed to get smaller and a lovely young fiddler named Natalie McMaster entertaining in the kitchen! It was a wonderful evening - and something Carmen would have enjoyed!

Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your memories as well - don't be a stranger!

Anonymous said...

Again Jodi a great blog!! You have such an awesome way with words!!
As I sit here wiping my tears from reading your blog and all of the memories shared from others leaving comments. I cannot help to be flooded with my own memories. I have too many to write down as Carmen was such a close friend and huge part of my childhood as we grew up together!! I also have a daughter(4 years old) who wears her "Carmen Young Track Meet" medal(thats what she announces it is) with pride, every now and again!! And ironically I have just noticed that as I turned to look at her I am wearing a Carmen Young Track meet T-shirt!!Too funny!!
all these years later I still meet up with Carmen once in while in my dreams and we have an adventure or share a laugh, like we often did in real life. I remember the last words I said to Carmen as I looked at her through teared filled eyes while she was loaded into an ambulance headed for Philly for her transplant "Catch ya on the flip side". At the time the words were just a teenage way of saying good bye. But now I feel that the flip side is out there and I am sure I will meet her there again when it is my time to go there.

Nancy Stubbert