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In Honor of Brandon Rios

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

I grew up in religion. Day and night we lived in church. I grew up memorizing scripture. I grew up with rules. I grew up with talk of everlasting life, and with the concept that death is not the end just the beginning stamped in my head.

It’s all fine and dandy until it happens to you. Someone you love, care about, admire—mother, father, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, friend, cousin—dies.

Then you’re left scrambling around for answers, and then the questions. How? When? Where? WHY???


As you try to process, the old griefs pop up. My mother’s death 2 1/2 years ago, my father’s years before, my 2 grandmothers, my grandfather, my aunt, my best friend, and now my younger, sweet cousin a day ago.

The sadness overwhelms—the anger and the pain. Then the regrets…I wish I had known this cousin better. I wish I had spoken to him to say, “Thank you; your life mattered.” I met him only a handful of times. Last I time I saw him, he spoke at my mother’s funeral.

Thank you; your life mattered.

He spoke eloquently and well of a mother I had not known. I knew a different mother than the one he spoke of. I had no idea she had made such an impact on his life. She influenced his career and the direction of his life.

He was articulate and kind. That day, he was a light in a world of hurt and darkness. My mother’s ending was painful and sad. She died of an awful disease. I never dreamed my cousin would die of that same awful disease 2 1/2 years later. He made a lasting impression on my husband who had never met him before. He made an impact on me that day. His smile is what I remember most and of course that great big heart.

Time, distance, logistics, life, family dynamics and finally, his illness affected our relationship. What I do know is this: he was a light to all. He was a light to me. Stories of his kind heart and compassion are everywhere as the waterfall of grief and sadness engulfs all who knew and loved him.

He led his own way. He was brave in a different way, a classier way, not boastful but humble, not loud but soft, not cocky but confident, not selfish but generous, not judgmental but empathetic, and most of all so brave in the face of an evil, dark disease.

My brother’s, who were much closer, were able to say goodbye to him. They laughed and cried, and asked him his advice. His words, “Forget about money; forget about work—make memories.”

Forget about money; forget about work—make memories.

So, I think of that great F. Scott Fitzgerald quote. I believe it’s never too late to stop or to start. Never too late to appreciate a life or to say goodbye. Never too late to make memories. Never too late to make an impact or to begin to be kind. Never too late to be an inspiration to others as my cousin was to so many.

Thank you for being a light to me when my world was crashing down. Thank you for being you, an original, an inspirational hero to all.


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