I didn’t sleep much last night. Instead, I tossed and turned dreaming of my friend Carrie Gilmore, who passed away suddenly this Monday after a too quick battle with breast cancer. Carrie and I had a lot in common. We met while volunteering at our mutually favorite organization, Girls on the Run. We were both moms to two young girls, we both shared a love of friendship, enjoyed good food and spending time with our families. So many similarities… Then, a few weeks ago, I too had a scare with cancer. But unlike Carrie, my further testing came back “normal” with a note from my doctor saying, “See you next year.” And that’s where the similarities ended. For Carrie, there would be no next year.
I unfortunately can’t claim to have known Carrie intimately nor had I known her for several years, like many others. It would seem that I shouldn’t be so affected, so upset, so ready to cry every time I think of her daughters or her widowed husband. But that’s what was amazing about Carrie. You didn’t have to know her very well to know that she radiated warmth, caring, inner beauty and pure love for the people and causes she fought for. She wore a tutu like no other, gave out hugs freely and shared a smile that enveloped her entire face – and made you feel at ease within a second of being in her presence. She was magical that way. And kids in particular knew it, but even we adults felt it.
Cancer sucks. And while I’ve known others who have had run-ins with its tentacles, this time it’s personal. I could be Carrie. You could be Carrie. We could all be Carrie: living our lives without a care in the world and then suddenly propelled into an unknown future leaving us wondering whether we’ll see next year.
If I take anything away from Carrie’s short life, it is this: to live and love so fully that it hurts. To smile as an offering of peace to every person I meet, just as she did. To wear a tutu to the office because it makes your coworkers laugh and makes work fun. To hug every child I can because they’ll remember it. And most significantly, to leave a mark on the community I live in through service, commitment and love. Carrie’s life was a testament to all of this, and more.
We are all hurting right now, Carrie. Really. Truly. Hurting. We miss your smile, your positive outlook on life and your unwavering optimism. However, we’re willing to experience this hurt because you were worth it. Your life left a huge imprint on your community, friends, and family. Thank you for sharing your spirit with us. We are all better people because of it.