When we remember people or places or things, we never remember everything. We remember parts. When I think about my first memories of David, I remember two things: his monster truck and his waterbed—both indicative of the 80s.
David was the cooler older cousin. He drove cool cars and had Kiss posters on his bedroom wall. If you asked him if you could play in his bedroom, he’d always say yes, and there were no restrictions attached. This meant Wacky Wall Walkers on the wood panel walls. It also meant playing on the waterbed.
Growing up, David was the only one I ever knew with a waterbed, and I thought it was the neatest piece of furniture imaginable. I remember the first time I asked for permission to actually touch the “mattress” (I always kept my distance and just looked at it). I remember pushing down on the blanket, watching my hand go down and the surface area around it rise up. The sound—a cross between a gurgle and the ocean’s tide—was soft. The ripples traveled under the fuzzy, black blanket and to the edges of the wooden bedframe.
I remember David standing in the doorway, watching me. “You can climb on the bed if you want to,” he said in a slow, Southern-like twang.
What a bizarre feeling. As I climbed over the bed’s edge and put my hands and one knee down, the lack of stability nearly caused me to flop forward on my face. I crawled to the middle of the bed and lay on my back, stretching my arms and legs out like a starfish to keep myself steady. The water gently splashed below me and then settled.
“Pretty cool, right?”
I looked around the room and ran my hands over the polyester blanket.
“Sooooo cool,” I said.
Out of all the moments my brain allows itself to remember, it chose that one. It must have been special.
Fast-forward 23 years, and here I am remembering David at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. His wife, Lori, cooked enough food to feed the fire department, and the table was set as if Martha Stewart did it herself. It was the most special Thanksgiving to me, not only because we spent it with David and his family, but because it was the type of Thanksgiving I always wanted. Everyone sitting around the table laughing, drinking wine, and passing the mashed potatoes and biscuits. My older brother and I teasing each other while no one noticed. It seemed surreal.
My cousin David lost his battle with leukemia on December 23, 2014. He fought long and he fought hard. It is now up to us—the family—to keep him alive through stories and photos. It is up to us to keep fighting the hard and long battle against blood cancer.
This year, I trained for my first marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT), and raised more than $4,000 to help find a cure for blood cancer. My chapter alone raised $250,000—enough to fund five researchers for one year. For 2015, the “Do It For David” campaign will be an even bigger success. I will surpass this year’s fundraising goal and shave 30 minutes off my marathon finish time. With the support of LLS, my TNT coaches and teammates, my family, and friends, we will keep David’s memory alive and help other blood cancer patients along the way.
It’s what David would’ve wanted—to keep living our lives and fighting the good fight.