I have a cousin who is my same age, Danielle. She is beautiful. She is a smart-ass. She is hilarious to be around. She never misses an opportunity to tell you what is on her mind. Never.
Danielle loves to dance, cook, and be surrounded by family and friends at every opportunity. She uses the “F” word as an adjective, adverb, verb, noun, pronoun, or any other possible usage.
She is awesome.
I remember the day I took my wife to meet her. I told Caiti, “This should be interesting. Just be prepared…my cousin Dani tells it like it is, so if you make it past her, you’re home free.”
That’s the kind of girl she is. Fierce. No mercy because you didn’t know her. She is polite and respectful, but never hesitates in confidence in herself and who she is. She is a presence in a room wherever she goes. She demands everyone around her enjoy themselves and have as good a time as her.
This last Friday night was no different.
As Danielle’s Memorial began, it became abundantly clear she didn’t want ANYONE crying over her. The room was decorated like a wedding. A DJ was even present and ready all of her favorite tunes. Just like a wedding celebration….
Because that’s exactly what it was–a celebration.
One after another, Danielle’s closest friends and family spoke of her and unapologetically told the crowd not to mourn for her, but to celebrate her life and her love for life without inhibition.
To believe in yourself.
As the night progressed and her Mom gracefully forced the entire room to “get up bitches!”…it was so clear Danielle’s love for others and their love for her was ever-present in the room. Like she was there with all of us in the room…because she was.
If there were anything you could walk into that room and learn, besides the obvious libation infused party that was going on, was that this group of people loved each other.
What was much more obvious was the love Danielle’s immediate family shared for each other. Mark, Debbie, Rochelle and Alan, and Raven. Her Father, Mother, Sister and Brother-in-law, and Niece, respectively.
Her transition has brought her family even closer. Their love for one another is unparalleled. Her family and friends banded closer together and their relationship has become an infinite loop for each other, always finding its way back to each other and within one another. That is Danielle’s legacy–her love for her family and their love for her.
While my heart breaks for the loss of my beautiful cousin and memories flood my mind and heart from when we were children into adulthood, I can’t help but also be filled with such an overwhelming joy and love for having been able to have my own life graced by hers and having known her.
She and her family have taught me how close a family can and should be through their love and unrelenting commitment to each other.
I hope I can love my family the way they have shown others.
I hope my daughter looks upon me someday and tells me I am the best Daddy in the world.
Danielle has taught us all to love fiercely.
For that, I am forever grateful for the Richards Family.
Enough words could never describe that…I love you all.
If you’d like to learn more about Danielle and her fight with the horrible diseases Dermatomyositis and Crest Syndrome, visit her blog: www.livingthroughthedarkness.wordpress.com.