I think about Darah every day. What I quickly learned after her death however was that I’ve been thinking about Darah every day for the majority of my life. Darah and I met at King School when we were 6 years old. Not only were we school friends, we were in Indian Princesses together, we struggled through at least 6 years of softball together, we transferred to the Elms together and we were just starting to figure out adulthood together.
As you can imagine, over an 18 year friendship we experienced many new things, collected an enormous amount of memories and influenced each other in many ways. For 18 years, including almost all of my ‘formative’ years, Darah was a part of my life. Because of this (as cliché as it sounds) Darah has always been a part of who I am.
Memories of time we spent together are brought to my attention from a variety of things throughout my day. For example, Blow-pops will ALWAYS remind me of Darah. They remind me of her because when she and I were in 3rd grade, we told our teacher Mrs. Jacobs that we were both allergic to the red dye in blow-pops; a lie Darah and I came up with as a means of securing one of the precious few sour-apple flavored suckers in the bag for each of us. I’m sure Mrs.Jacobs saw right through our story but she let us each have a beloved sour apple and she never once mentioned the fact that the gum inside of every blow-pop, regardless of flavor, is bright pink! Darah and I giggled about our younger selves’ mischievous plan as adults, while I ‘smuggled’ blow-pops into the ‘sugar-free zone’ Maureen was trying to create in her room at the Cleveland Clinic, sneaking to eat them whenever Mo left the room.
I also giggle every time I walk past the New Balance store by my office that has a sign in the window that reads: “What’s your shape?” with multiple examples of customer’s footprints hung below it. I laugh because Darah had the flattest feet of anyone I have ever met and I would have loved to see Darah’s solid, flat, rectangle of a footprint hanging next to all of the barely there foot prints of the other customers.
The impact Darah has on my life goes far beyond remembering all the time we spent and the things we did together. As a kid, I envied Darah’s inability to get embarrassed. It didn’t matter how loud Mr. Farris shouted her name or how many different times she got hit in the face with a softball, she would just laugh her amazing laugh and embrace it. I was always impressed with how easily Darah was able to ‘go with the flow’; nothing ever fazed Darah.
As we grew up however, I was able to see Darah’s most remarkable quality was much more inspiring than not getting embarrassed by your parents or being able to laugh at yourself. Darah was an incredibly selfless person. Despite her loud and outgoing nature, she never wanted to be the center of attention nor did she ever want anyone to recognize all of the amazing things she was doing for others.
Darah’s selflessness never ceased to amaze me. I will always remember the day Darah stopped by my parents’ house with Karter and a young girl from Abacus. It was Halloween and she had taken them trick-or-treating while their moms were at work. It was easy to see that Darah had taken them trick-or-treating because she didn’t want either of them to miss out on the fun of dressing up and getting candy, even if their moms had to work. She had been for a chemo treatment 3 days earlier.
When my parents were in a very serious car accident Darah was well into her fight and she was getting ready to start radiation treatments but she continually offered to help, always asking if she could take me to lunch, or bring anything to my dad at the clinic when she went for treatment, and she even told me SHE felt guilty for not stopping by to see my parents “as much as she should”. SHE felt guilty, the girl with fucking lung cancer felt like she wasn’t doing enough to help MY family! When I would try to point out how ludicrous it was for her to feel that way she would just laugh and ask what room my dad was in at the Clinic.
Darah was somehow able to deal with everything going on in her own life while she continued to focus on how she could help everyone around her. I am inspired by Darah daily both in the memories I have of her as well as the influence she has had on how I perceive the world. Even though my happy memories are often followed immediately by the anger and sadness of loss, I cherish them because I know that with them, I will always have a little bit of Darah with me in my life.
Written by: Cassady Horn