Anniversaries are a funny thing, we have these dates on the calendar that mean more to us than other dates. We take pause, let ourselves either celebrate; honor an event in history or mourn a moment that changed everything. We allow ourselves these specific dates even though yesterday and tomorrow are in reality no different.
11/14 is one of those dates for me. Even though there’s not a day that passes that I don’t think about my sister, it’s this date the past four years I let myself really go there. Go back to her, our memories, her journey and that day specifically.
This year for the first time I let myself watch her memorial, I hear her voice, her laugh. I read her eulogy. Took hours to get through both, alone. As I was watching and reading I kept wanting to stop, why let myself hit that nerve, how did I ever get up again after this day four years ago or any days that followed?
As I reflect I always go back I think about Diem’s overall “legacy,” and to the fear that people could be forgetting, that her life was lost in vain. And then I come back to MedGift. Are we doing everything we can to share her story, her mission? That will be her real legacy. Knowing lives were helped, touched, changed because of her vision.
What I often struggle with is how I remember viewing cancer before it touched my life. I was one of the millions that believed it “it will never happen to me, or my loved ones.” Faceless victims I couldn’t identify with. Cancer was a million miles away from my life. Until one day it wasn’t.
I believe we have become desensitized to this disease because of how rampant it’s become, from the diagnosis, to treatments and to the number of lives lost. We need to reenergize our focus and our efforts as a society to combat it and be there for those fighting it, every single day.
I’ve racked my brain for a way to reach those who see Cancer today the way I saw it years ago. The need to make cancer a person; an amazing, living, breathing, smiling, dancing person – how to reach those that have been lucky enough to still believe it’s a million miles away.
I’m sharing Diem’s memorial video, and her eulogy to make cancer human again and Diem’s memory and legacy fresh for anyone that’s willing to go there with us.
It’s my hope that Wednesday, November 14th’s Collaboration Hub Kick Off Event (Powered by WeWork & The Biden Cancer Initiative) on the anniversary of Diem’s passing will do just that. Put more faces and voices to this disease, to create an opportunity for us to meet one another by coming together to fight cancer and understand the resources we can all share with those who need them most.
Diems Eulogy by Megan Brown
I needed to get words on paper so I set out around the city to all the places you loved, Central Park, the Plaza for tea, our apartment but I couldn’t find you anywhere. It was the first time I had been alone in days and I was hoping you would somehow speak to me, you would somehow let me know it’s all going to be okay and that you’re in a better place, pain free.
Diem and I were 18 months apart. We were raised as twins. The Girls. Go check on the Girls, the Girls need a bath, the Girls are in time out. Identical toys, identical outfits but completely different personalities. My mom said Diem came out fighting from day one. Always full of energy, hands in everything, curious and brave. They had a joke about when we would travel that Diem was on a tour of the world’s hospitals. No matter what country we were in she found herself with a broken bone, missing tooth, or needing stitches. It was her go go go attitude. She was fearless, mischievous and incredibly clever. Since we moved around a lot we were often each other’s only companions and in turn only tormentors. Diem and I shared the same bed when we were toddlers. Diem had a bed wetting problem but because of her quick thinking at age 5, I was the one in diapers. Diem had figured out at that age if she just switched spots and undergarments with me no one would ever be the wiser. It took my parents catching her mid act for the truth to come out. From then on we enjoyed separate beds. A few years later I was in Girl Scouts and I had my heart set on the top prize for selling the most cookies, it was a Caboodle. Id given up, complaining there was no way I would sell enough to win. Diem, at age 8, rolled her eyes at me, grabbed my cookie form, a phone book and filled in the entire sheet. I was soon awarded the top seller for the entire East Coast. We were psyched until about 900 boxes of unclaimed cookies were delivered to our house. We were grounded and needless to say I had to return the Caboodle.
I have hundreds of memories and stories however most I don’t feel right sharing because obviously as sisters we’d always have our own version of how the story actually went. Im not sure whose going to correct me when I tell the biting story without you here to chime in that you were just laughing… really really hard. What empties me are not the memories I can recall so vividly it’s the memories that were to come. Ive always just pictured you by my side for all our life events. You’re at the alter with me on my wedding day, you’re beaming from ear to ear when I hand you your new niece or nephew. We take turns hosting family holidays, we plan girls getaways, wine weekends, concerts and Brown-Bowl tailgates. We grow old together.
The body, mind and heart are all amazing things. I truly can’t believe my body is capable of producing so many tears, I can’t seem to get my mind to stop racing/linking every sight, smell and sound to you and I can’t get my heart to stop aching. It actually hurts. Today I am able to understand that this is the very essence and beauty of life and Gods resilience in us. My armor will eventually crack because in order to truly honor my sister I have to learn to live like she lived and that was day by day and to the fullest. She saw the good in everyone. She loved hard, laughed hard and danced hard. I will and challenge you to aspire to live as she lived. Life is too short.
Family surrounded Diem in her last moments, I held her hand and put the other on her head. Father Morris led the Hail Mary and I closed my eyes tight. I saw Mom waiting for you with arms stretched open “come home darling” in her sweet Aussie accent. You ran to her. When I opened my eyes you took your last breath and you were at peace. That is what we hold onto now. Cancer did not beat you Diem, it lead you to Eternity. Our dancing angel.
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