When I was asked by my cousin Maureen to write this, I was a bit apprehensive. I am not really the best at these types of things and can never find quite the right words to express the things that I want to be expressed. I miss Darah a lot and think of her often. I have many fond memories of her, a few of which I will share here. Darah was funny. I don’t remember what year this happened but it was Thanksgiving. Holidays with us have been known for a number of things but always include lots of food, wine, friends and our family being together. This year there were many people there-family of course, and friends that had become family. I am sure there was plenty of eating, some drinking, and a lot of interesting conversations at the “kid table” ranging from school to activism, from vegetarianism and veganism to art and music. Anyway, in between dinner and dessert one of my favorite things to do is retreat to the “man-cave”, which consists of a big screen TV in the basement at George and Debbies home. That year my friend Billy and I retreated to the basement full on a buffet of Lebanese classics to watch some TV. Suddenly, a young Darah burst into the room and declared “boys have turkey gobblers” and then ran out. Bill and I immediately looked at each other and began cracking up. Funniest part of that Thanksgiving and maybe any Thanksgiving since. Fast forward… I needed a ride to pick my car up. Darah offered to do this for me. On the ride I looked through her CD’s and found that there were a number of them that I liked. We struck up a conversation about music, among other things. Then, she lit up a cigarette…I was shocked. My baby cousin was growing up right before my eyes. I remember asking if her parents knew. She replied “yes, but they don’t like it”. I remember thinking “I bet”. That car ride made me see Darah in a whole new light. She was growing up, she wasn’t so little any more, but she was okay…crossing a similar ground as I had.
This is where this gets hard.
There are so many stories that I could tell…and so many that will never unfold. When I found out that Darah was sick, I was shocked, I was saddened, I wondered to myself how my baby cousin could be going through this? But throughout it all she demonstrated a level of strength that inspired me greatly. Darah was an amazing human. I was caught completely off guard, we had just spent Christmas all together.
Months before Christmas, Darah, my sister Julie, and I went out to dinner at the Mustard Seed. We were quite a crew of vegetarian and vegan diners. I don’t know why I brought this up…I guess it was one of the last times that we would be out together. I remember a lot of laughing, and I believe I lost the “ordering game” meaning both Darah and Julie ordered meals that were vastly more delicious than mine, although mine was still good. Darah seemed “good” at that point, smiling and happy (although she maintained that attitude all the way through)-it was a wonderful evening.
Back to Christmas-there was of course family, friends, and an amazing spread. There were two standout moments to me that both came in the form of gifts. The first was a “thought jar” that Darah made. Each of us got one. Inside each jar was a little pad of paper and marker. You could write down something positive and store it away. A unique gift. The next gift was a split between Darah, Maureen, and Julie. It was an e-cigarette. I was talking about quitting new years and this was definitely a welcomed help. Darah quit smoking a year and a half earlier and it was my time to kick the habit. Both gifts were cool in that they were meant to encourage positive life choices or rather actions. I remember being impressed with the spirit of both gifts. Days later we would all get the news that, well, crushed me. I left work and would not go back until after the new year. I would be around family and during all of this, I quit smoking. I don’t know how Darah got cancer, I don’t know how my mother got cancer, but I knew I was done smoking. I quit that New Years and have not smoked since. I believe that this is in part to the positive influence of my baby cousin who had also smoked and quit. I love her and I miss her every day and I wish that I could have done more for her. I am better for knowing her, my funny, compassionate, intelligent, beautiful Darah.