Wow, in retrospect, this thread has made me realize it's been a tough couple of years for me in this department.
The first real major death in our family that I remember is my Aunt Marie. She was my dad's cousin, and sister of my Amou George (who I was named after.) Marie had suffered through a brutal case of breast cancer. I remember vividly the Friday morning when we got the call in 1991 that the cancer had finally won. She left behind two lovely daughters, my cousins, and their father. I don't think my Amou George ever really got over it, as their father had passed away when they were both very young, and about ten years after Marie died, their mother, (my great aunt) died also, leaving George the only one left from his immediate family. Here's a picture of George and Marie, shortly before her death when they came to visit us in Virginia:
In 2008, I lost two friends. The first, my mentor, friend, colleague and just an all-around good person, Anh-Thi Phan-Winkler, lost her battle with colon cancer. She'd been fighting it for roughly four years or so and left behind a beautiful son and a loyal husband who stood by her side through everything. She was only a few weeks older than me and we lost her at the too young age of 28, just weeks after her birthday. Here's a picture of her, with her son Christian.
In December of that year, another old friend from college, Tom Brown, was killed in action in Iraq. He and I had worked together in the admissions office when we were undergrads and he always had a kind comment or cheerful disposition whenever I saw him. When he graduated, he had originally joined the local police force but eventually found his way in to the Army. Even though I only knew him casually at work, we had some great times in that office and I think of him often. After I found out about his passing, I scrounged up an old video I'd shot with him and another friend during our admissions office days, which you can see here
Not long after that, I found out about another friend - Travis Hammond - who had passed away as well. He was 30 I think, and if I remember correctly, he died from complications of diabetes. Travis was a year ahead of me in high school. I'll never forget the first time I met him - on the blacktop parking lot at the school, on a hot August evening in Virginia as my friend Steve and I, nervous freshman and new to the band, were learning our marching steps for our marching band show. Unlike most of the other upperclassmen, Travis looked out for us that week. He might have laughed when the others did, but it was always more of a "ok, nice now here's how you REALLY wanna do it" kind of thing. He was also a law enforcement officer at the time of his death, and had just been admitted in to the FBI training school. He left behind a widow and adorable little son. Here's a pic of Travis:
In March 2010, you might remember me posting about my friend Katie. She passed away while traveling abroad from a complication from a car accident that led to an aneurysm. She went to bed with a headache and never woke up. She was 24. I think about her the most honestly. She was so bright and willful, happy (despite having a traumatic life) and just about the friendliest, most charming people I'd ever known. Here's one of my favorite photos of her:
My maternal grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. I haven't really told anyone about it mainly because I hadn't seen her in several years. She had been living in a retirement home and I know there had been some bad blood between grandma and my mom. Grandma was not an easy person to like or get along with and while she had her faults, she was always nice to me, even if she couldn't replicate that same behavior toward others (like my brother.) Still, I feel more guilty about not feeling bad about her passing than anything else. I worry more for my mom who might not have had the chance to try to resolve any of the issues they had developed over the years.
Lastly, just a few weeks ago I was perusing Facebook when a friend posted an old photo from our junior high days. I was surprised to find several old friends there, and greatly saddened to learn that one, Abby Burroughs, had also passed away several years ago, thanks to cancer. After some quick Google-fu, I found that Abby, her parents and family had set up the Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs.
I'm sorry to say that I lost track of Abby after we went to our respective high schools and I didn't see her much after our 8th grade graduation. But I remember passing notes with her in science class and sitting with her at lunch in the cafeteria. She died on June 9, 2001 at the age of 21.
This is a video of her father promoting the cause the Abigail Alliance is championing: