Thank You!

Thanks to our community of supporters who outdid themselves at our biennial Fuck Cancer Birthday Party for our girl, Darah.  We had an extremely successful event, raising over $35,000 for her scholarship.  We are humbled and so grateful for you all in our lives.  So many of you came together to make this work, and rather than thanking people individually and inevitably missing someone, please know that regardless of how you contributed, be it with goods, services, money, or love, we are honored to be the recipients of your gifts.  Thank you for continuing to support us as we honor the life and legacy of Darah.

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**Photo Credit: Brandon Baker Photography**

Love,

The Farris Family

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Fuck Cancer Birthday Party

IMG_2555.JPGThis September would be Darah’s 29th birthday and you KNOW she would have partied!  Please come and celebrate with us. It would mean the world to our family if you could be there. Consider this your invitation!  RSVP to Maureen. We cannot wait to celebrate with you while raising a little bit of money for Darah’s Scholarship.

Third Annual Darah Farris Golf Outing

Our wonderful friends at Prestwick Country Club and the University of Akron, along with my devoted dad, George Farris, put together a Pro Am golf outing this September to benefit the Darah Farris Memorial Scholarship.  As always, our hearts are full from the generous giving of time, goods, and financial resources from the community that surrounds us!  Enjoy some pictures from the golf outing and look forward to meeting our newest Darah Farris Scholarship recipient in the coming weeks.

Gratitude-An Unexpected Result

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So many thoughts go through my mind about this experience of grief. It has been three years since Darah’s death on December 29, 2012.

We just finished celebrating our third Christmas without her physical presence. Yesterday we had our third Memorial Mass and Brunch in her honor. Many people acknowledge that this is a difficult time of year for us. Indeed it is. So many memories of all of our lives are so intricately woven in to the holidays. We pack them with memories and traditions while we are living them.

When our loved ones die, we feel their absence most acutely during these times. And for us, and many like us, when the death anniversary is so close to the holiday itself, there is such a mix of emotions.

George and I will never forget the horror of that morning, just a few days after Christmas, when Darah was too weak to walk and when the Paramedics arrived. We will never forget the gloom of the day. We will never forget the icy, wet cold of the air. We will not forget the dread of another hospital stay – the shock that this ultimately was the final hospital visit.

Maureen will never forget receiving that unspeakable phone call from us. She, already in Chicago, where we were all planning to be, to celebrate Colin and Elizabeth’s wedding.

Yet, as the time passes and I become more accustomed to this reality, I am grateful for so much. The biggest blessing, as I have written before, is the depth of love that I would never have known, without this loss. The love and deep understanding among this small family of ours continues to flourish and grow.

I am grateful for Darah. I am grateful for her life, her laughter, her intelligence, her sense of humor; her honesty. I am grateful for her fierce strength and determination. I am so incredibly grateful for her life and that I get to be her mom.

I am grateful for my family.

The love and appreciation for each other and the roles that we played during Darah’s illness continues. I was the nurse; George was the comic and always positive one; Maureen, our in-house naturopath, researching and seeking remedies and cures – and holding me up emotionally all the time. Jeremiah was the loving brother and son we had never had before.

I am grateful to be able to lend support to newly bereaved parents. Unfortunately, more parents have lost children in the past three years. I hope that my experience of this heart wrenching grief, and my ability to survive and grow, gives other moms hope that someday their pain will not be so acute.

I am grateful for the new skills and experiences I am allowing myself to have. This year I have started to practice Yoga and Transcendental Meditation – which I believe are helping me tremendously to live in the now and manage the grief emotions which are with me always.

I am grateful for the little ones who are in our lives because of Darah’s generous heart and friendship with Tara. We got to spend time again with them this Christmas and are making plans for basketball and swim lessons at the YMCA– starting next week.

I am so grateful for our friends and family who still acknowledge our loss and continue to say Darah’s name – usually with a big smile remembering her shenanigans and sense of humor. These people continue to support The Darah Farris Scholarship Fund.

I am grateful to the contributors to this Blog. I learned from Maddie Rogers, the concept of Memento Mori. Never had I heard of that before – never would it have had such a deep meaning as it has now.

I am grateful for my job. It is such a wonderful place to work. My work is varied and challenging and stressful, at times. But my job helps me stay focused on the here and now. My co-workers are such wonderful people and many of the concepts we explore in our meeting rooms help all of us in even this area of life and loss.

As time goes by, I am more and more astonished at the truth of the theme of George’s letter to Darah all those years ago when she was at her high school retreat. I am wizened by the truth of the letter from which he read from at her funeral; the title of a love song; the title of this blog.

The best IS yet to come.

Written By: Debbie Farris

When the Community Hugs, This is the Result

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Group picture of everyone who bought a Fuck Cancer shirt that was brilliantly designed by Charlie Wagers.

Friends!

You all SHOWED UP in a sensational way on September 20th to celebrate my beautiful sisters 27th birthday and to raise funds for the scholarship in her honor.  Thank you for making so many memories with us and supporting our cause so generously.  We felt the love and we hope you feel it in return.

Enjoy a sampling of the photos, courtesy of Max Rivera.

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Antwaunette, our newest Darah Farris Scholarship Recipient

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Our most sincere gratitude goes out to all of our guests who, with their joyful hearts and generosity, made the evening spectacular.  We are grateful for Tony Troppe and all the staff at Musica for providing the perfect venue for our event. We are also so thankful to Light of the Loon and Shivering Timbers for sharing their music with us and Max for captuinrg the essence of the evening.  Deep gratitude to Charlie Wagers for designing the amazing Fuck Cancer shirts. Finally, we are overwhelmed with the generosity of the community that donated baskets and prizes to raffle off.

Love you all!  Can’t wait until next year!

The Farris Family

Momento Mori

Madeline Rogers (left), Sarah Kormushoff (middle) and Darah Farris (right)  celebrate the wedding of Sarah and Corbin.  Darah got dressed and made up at the hospital with permission from a very special doctor to leave for the evening to attend the  wedding.

Madeline Rogers (left), Sarah Kormushoff (middle) and Darah Farris (right) celebrate the wedding of Sarah and Corbin. Darah got dressed and made up at the hospital with permission from a very special doctor to leave for the evening to attend the wedding.

Today my uncle, Harvey died. September 16, the same date as Darah’s birthday. This coincidence, this intersection of death, and life, and death, is not really relevant to Harvey’s orb of existence, nor Darah’s, but for me, I guess, it represents something. A coincidence, a sign, a slap in the face from the Grim Reaper himself. I don’t know.

I do know that I have been lucky enough to spend most of my life on earth with essentially no exposure to death. In my mind, death was something that happened in the future. I would deal with it later. Only a small population of humanity, and an even smaller population of all life, can benefit from this advantageous phenomenon. Not to mention the extraordinarily newness of our death-avoiding abilities. Our average life span has more than doubled in the past 100 years. In 1900 the average life span was 40yrs of age! I am so removed from death that it almost seems as though it is not natural. Yet, besides childbirth, it, ironically, seems to be one of the truest things of life. Although I know this as fact I have such an impossibly hard time accepting it and I often want to run and hide from the bleak reality.

Fear, sadness, avoidance. That’s my response. About a year ago I discovered a book concentrating on a Latin theory, and subsequent art, of “momento mori” (Latin: “remember, you will die”). As the definition indicates, it’s a practice and theory of the reflection on mortality and earthly vanities. It’s basically pretty medieval, but I’ve accepted it as one of my main mantras. When I’m in the middle of a selfish panic attack or quarter life crisis, it is almost soothing to remind myself to remember that I will die, and so will everyone else, so you might as well try to make the best of your life, your situation, your mental state. I guess it’s my way of trying to confront and accept death. Regardless of how you address it, death is there. There comes a time that you can no longer push it off into the future or under the rug. And, in the way that Darah taught me so many things, she taught me this as well.

So, in honor of Darah’s birthday, I would like to write down some of my memories of her.

Since we are talking about pushing things under rugs I would like to begin with: Mistletoe. Sometimes considered the neighborhood’s ultimate annoyance, Mistletoe attained the nickname Toenail from my mother. The barking, the fur, the smell, the running away whenever possible, the constantly needing attention, was enough to put her over the edge, but to me he was the first dog I never had. The joy I had when petting him or walking him around the block pretending he was my own is seared into my brain and I will be forever grateful to Debbie & George for giving into buying him. Anyways, one day, (or many days, who really knows what he ate while gallivanting the Palisades neighborhood) Mistletoe puked in the hallway, in front of only Darah and me. Neither of us had the time or patience to clean it up. We had Saved By the Bell to watch, or lightning bugs to catch, or older sisters to annoy. So, in Darah fashion, she looked both ways, and moved the carpet over the puke. To this day I have not been able to confirm if the puke was ever found. If it was, I am sure she pled innocent until proven guilty. I loved this about her. She was a rule breaker. Darah was caring, loving, and, beyond all, patient. But she knew rules are meant to be broken, or, at least bent. We grew up together sharing this novel belief. Sneaking through George’s things in the basement, lighting aerosol spray on fire, going too far in the ravine, watching rated R movies, flirting with boys are just a few examples of the more innocent things that we did together.

As we grew older, and our crimes against rules progressed into less innocent endeavors, Darah served as the levelheaded, positive force in my life. We went to different schools and grew apart, but every moment we spent together was easy and felt as if nothing had changed. As I was struggling emotionally and away at school, seeing Darah was always a grounding and uplifting experience. She was so patient and so calm. No matter what trouble I had gotten into she made me realize everything would be ok. I so often wish she were still on this earth to provide this rare and soothing outlook on life to the students that she was working to serve. But I guess as Darah taught me so many other important things about life, and also as we learned so many things together, she taught me that things don’t always go as planned. She taught me to try to appreciate every small moment of joy and to never forget to reflect on these moments. And most of all, she taught me “momento mori”.

Written by Darah’s oldest friend, Madeline Rogers.

The Bigs and The Littles: Pictured Left to Right, Darah Farris, Maureen Farris, Madeline Rogers, Sarah Rogers

The Bigs and The Littles: Pictured Left to Right, Darah Farris, Maureen Farris, Madeline Rogers, Sarah Rogers

Celebrating Darah’s 27th Birthday the Way She Would Have Liked It!

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Hi Friends,

Please consider joining us for the 2nd Annual Fuck Cancer Birthday Party and Fundraiser that we are throwing in loving memory of Darah on September 20th at Musica.  In an effort to include everyone, admission is free, however we will accept donations at the door, sell Fuck Cancer T-Shirts (designed by the incredible Charlie Wagers), and be selling raffle tickets for some awesome baskets.  Additionally, two beautifully talented bands will perform, Light of the Loon returns this year along with Shivering Timbers.  We will also proudly introduce the second recipient of the Darah Farris Scholarship.  There will be food, birthday cake, and a cash bar.  Bring your loved ones!  We can’t wait to see you.

Last time we had a party like this one, we had a blast.  Follow this link to see pictures from the 1st Annual Fuck Cancer Party.  https://darahfarris.com/2013/11/

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Your Heart is a Light Source

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The death of someone that you love deeply is always hard.  In the beginning the pain is visceral, leaving your emotions vulnerable like an exposed nerve, never knowing when a shock of pain will overcome you.  The passing of time dullens the pain from an open and irritated wound to a scar reminding you of the love that you have had and lost.  The different stages of grief are no harder or easier, no better no worse…just different.  While time brings healing and peace of mind, it also brings worry and fear that the world is moving on and forgetting the person who continues to be the center of your universe.  As I (we) have endured more than two years of grief since the passing of my sister, I have learned that my life always gives me what I need to cope, grow, and continue moving forward.  Just as I was beginning to feel as if the world had forgotten about my sister and the pain set in that more and more people in this world would never know her, a few of my students came to the rescue.  Enter Brooklyn, DeAsianaye’, and Steven, three extraordinary third graders to renew my spirit and my hope that my sister, while not present with us on Earth, still lives and inspires through the love that we share.

Hanging on my door at the entrance to my classroom is an “All About Me” poster that I created my first year of teaching (2 years prior to the cancer diagnosis).  One section of the poster asks you to describe your hero, which I listed as my sister, Darah.  I am always amazed at how often students read this poster and comment on the beauty of Darah, as her picture is affixed next to the paragraph about her hero status.  Brooklyn and DeAsianaye’, two of my third grade students always commented on the section about Darah and how pretty she is.  I must also tell you that I talk about Darah a lot in my classroom, mostly about the life lessons that she taught me and I want to pass on to my students.  One day, after reading my poster, both girls asked me if they could have lunch with me so that they could hear “the whole story” about Darah.  I could not turn down this opportunity, so they spent an entire lunch and recess period asking me questions about my sister; about her life, her illness, and her death.  They were sponges that wanted to soak up every drop of Darah that I would give them.  This warmed my heart-my sister who I have feared no one will ever get to know again, is still manifesting herself in inspiring ways in the lives of others.  From that day on, these sweet girls would write Darah notes, talk to others about Darah, and recall lessons that they learned from her through me, such as living life with a joyful heart.  I know that Darah is having a lasting impact on their lives and it is certainly teaching me to trust and see that my sister is still very much alive in the interactions and relationships that we have on this earth.

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Steven’s story is completely different.  Steven is a very athletic student who comes across as kind, competitive, hard working, funny, and compassionate.  After several days of missed school due to the passing of my Uncle Louie, Steven started hinting at an end of year gift that he was making that he assured would make me cry.  The last day of school came, and there was no gift.  I was slightly curious and patiently waited to see if the gift would surface.  Towards the end of the day, Steven’s mother walked in the door to deliver the gift.  As she unfolded a simple piece of cardboard, what fell from the attached strings caused my eyes to well up with tears.  Steven had taught himself to fold paper cranes (which he missed watching a Cavs game to learn) and created a diorama of cranes along with a photo of one photo of my sister and one of my uncle.  There was not a dry eye in the classroom.  As most of you know, birds have become a deep symbol for me of my sister.  Paper cranes hung in Darah’s room during her illness and they hung at our wedding to symbolize her.  Steven knew this symbol of love and hope for me and created a gift that meant more to me than he will ever know.  While Steven had always exemplified a great student and friend, his act of kindness has actually changed my life.  His simple and thoughtful gift reminded me not only that my sister and uncle are loved and appreciated through my own actions but also that I can also perform these acts of kindness to restore hope in the lives of others.

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I am humbled to be called these children’s teacher, as I believe that they teach me far more than I teach them.  These third graders did not perform these acts for a high grade, money, or personal gain, they did it because they live their lives guided by their heart.  As adults, we tend to guard our hearts to avoid hurt, but by doing that we can sometimes lead lives that are much too logical, practical, and methodical.  Through these whole hearted actions, my students not only taught me that Darah’s spirit is alive and well, but they reminded me to let my heart lead me as I navigate through life.

Love,

Maureen

Always Come Back to Friends

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Darah started the tradition of attending the “Elms Gala” and we continue to attend each year. Pictured from left: Darah Farris, Cassady Dishman, Stephanie Heiser, and Kathryn Dhillon.

I have always loathed winter.  Snow, ice, subzero temperatures, boots, down coats, 45 layers, shoveling, short days, cancelled flights, post-Christmas blues, you name it and I really don’t like it.  I am a summer girl through and through, but I do always think of Darah when it snows and that certainly doesn’t happen in July.

Considering the 19 inches of snow that graced the city of Chicago on Super Bowl Sunday (and more after), I’ve been thinking of Darah quite a bit.  One of the things I admired most about Darah was her confidence, in herself, in the people around her, in the hope for a better future, in the power of education.  It is so appropriate that her name and her spirit live on in a scholarship fund for students.

In a few weeks, I will gather with some of my favorite Elms girls to make a ruckus at the annual school fundraiser.  I know we are all so grateful for the opportunity to come together every year and honor this woman that means so much to all of us.  As I make my way through the world and embark on new adventures, it is a centering and galvanizing experience to come back to this group of people.  These women have given me the most remarkable gift through our friendship: a simple but boundless sense of belonging in the world, that the world is ours to take and shape and inhabit.  This too is the legacy that Darah has left for us, her friends, her family, her scholarship recipients.

For me, these words are Darah:

“You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery.  Be a warrior for love.” – Cheryl Strayed, tiny beautiful things

To consistently stretch in the direction of goodness, to be courageous with emotions, to love gracefully and unconditionally, to take the world by storm, to be an agent of change – this was Darah.  And this can be us too.

Written by one of Darah’s dear friends, Kathryn Dhillon

Dear Darah: A Letter from Mother to Daughter

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The following is the letter that our mom put in Darah’s stocking this Christmas.  Thank you, deeply, to each of you who helped us stuff her stocking.

Christmas 2014

Dear Darah:

It is Christmas Eve. I have asked other people if they would write a letter to you, but I find it very difficult to do.

I think it is because I feel that a letter I write should be read. If the letter I write is read, all of those thoughts will be out – out in the open. When they are inside they are easier to control. Easier to contain.

Two years. I cannot believe it. Sometime a few months ago we passed the point in time when you were gone longer than you were sick. Maureen and I talked about that briefly. All we could say was “unbelievable.”

Time continues to befuddle me. It seems like the days drag – but the years fly. The moments of pain are interminable – the moments of joy, fleeting. But, I must say that oftentimes when I am scared or heartbroken, I feel you telling me that it is all OK, and I feel better.

We are figuring it out. I guess I should speak for myself. That is what I like to say when people ask, “how are you doing?” I say “we are figuring it out.”

We are not “getting used” to it. We are not “getting over” it.

We are daily figuring out how to live our lives without you here with us. We are daily figuring out how to find you and connect with you, where you are, now.

Daddy visits the cemetery daily and is just present with you. I make almost daily visits to say HI and tidy up and then I am on my way. I wistfully think I have always been this way. In a hurry. On to the next thing. When Daddy and I go together I am a little better at just being there with you.

Daddy and I hope you are glad when we hug or kiss at the cemetery. We hope you know that our love for you, and for each other, is stronger than we ever believed would be possible. We hope you are glad that we love each other and that losing you, has brought us closer. All of us. Your illness and loss has brought love to a whole new level. I venture to say it is a level of love not everyone gets to experience.

I write to you almost every day in my journal. Private thoughts. Questioning thoughts. I will never stop writing to you. I will never stop talking to you. I will never stop thinking about you. I will never stop remembering you and all our “things”. Especially some of the moments of love, tenderness, fear and joy we experienced when you were sick. Holding each other’s hands…reaching for each other when the doctor began to speak.

Because of you, we have children in our house this Christmas morning. Little, beautiful children, whom we love because they are part of you. Karter is a part of you, because he is and always will be your Godson. He bears your love and we feel you, through him. He is a good boy. A SMART boy. A talented BOY. A fun, good natured, friendly boy. I know you are so proud.

Darah is part of you because she bears your name. She probably began her life on Earth, just around the time you were getting ready to leave us. She will grow up learning about you and getting to know you. She reminds me of you. She kind of sits back and observes. She lets Karter do the talking. She is soaking it all in.

As I write this I still cannot believe you are gone. Sometimes I pretend you are in Africa or something. And in a way, how different would it be if you were? If I can truly believe you are somewhere far away and I will see you again – I feel comforted by thinking that I am just a parent whose child is far away in another country or something.

So honey, this is the life we have received. We have been tasked with being brave and living until it is our time to join you. Sometimes I feel strong enough for that task and sometimes I don’t. Then I try to think of you and how strong you have been. Taking the lead. Going out in front of us. Joining Sito and Gido and all your other ancestors. Getting to know the “lay of the land” before we get there. I miss you every moment of the day. I am the proudest Mom I could ever imagine being. Thank you for your strength and your example.

I love you, Sweet Darah.

MOMMY

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