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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.