(Photo courtesy of Kristin Carnevale-may not be used without permission)
“That song gave me the courage to get up and do something to help people the way we’ve been helped.” Kristin Carnevale
I so appreciated all of the kind words, the “likes”, the “shares” and the public and private messages I received after my post last week about losing my pup Ashley and how I moved through my grief.
Now, I need to draw your attention to another woman who has moved through a grief of an entirely different magnitude, and how she turned her grief and energy into something that is amazing beyond words.
While I won’t regale you with the endless stories of youthful shenanigans and friends and family ties, I will tell you that I’ve known this woman, Kristin, for about 20 years, from when she started dating my friend Caesar. After some years together, they married in her native Cincinnati, in a beautiful and incredibly fun East-Coast-Meets-Midwest wedding.
Fast forward a bunch of years. After a stint in New Jersey, my friends ended up in Cincinnati with their three kids, Paul, Henry and Sara. Caesar worked outside of the home while Kris took care of the children and household. They were living the suburban dream.
Early in 2011, life took a strange and terrible twist for this family. After multiple doctor visits and questions and discomfort, Caesar was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer. That’s right, cancer of a body part that is generally unused in adults, with some exceptions.
By the end of the year, on December 30, 2011 to be exact, at the age of 38, Caesar succumbed to this illness. Taken by this ridiculous cancer of a ridiculous mostly unused, unnecessary organ.
Kristin was left with a giant hole in her heart and the need to keep on for the sake of her kids. She found that running provided her with the time to grieve privately, sort out her thoughts, and find the energy to press forward. Music was something that Kris and Caesar bonded over, and as she ran, she also realized the healing power of music. One day, while running and listening to music, the song “When I Go”, by Brett Dennen came on her internet radio mix. These lyrics brought her to a sobbing standstill:
“Hold this heart when I go
sing my song when I go
You know I’d love to get to heaven
you know I’d love to see the view
but first I think I’ll stay and watch over you.”
Although she was overwhelmed with trying to keep herself together, maintain a loving household for her children, starting her own business to try to support her family, she became obsessed with an idea.
The idea being a benefit concert, featuring Brett Dennen, the artist whose music and lyrics helped her acknowledge and process her grief. The beneficiary would be Fernside, A Center For Grieving Children, one of the only organizations of its type in the United States, which has a small full-time staff and a multitude of volunteers who work to help families through the grieving process when a parent dies.
After much legwork, emails, phone calls, social media pleas and pressure, she made this idea become a reality, in the form of The 43. It was titled as such because “43” is a number that has special meaning among those who knew Caesar, and is a perfect representation and tribute to this man who was loved by so many.
Friends and family watched and supported Kristin along the way, and we were so completely overwhelmed and inspired when she actually managed to make this happen. The concert was held on September 28th in Cincinnati, featuring yes, Brett Dennen. Many family members and friends were able to make the trip to Ohio; others were there in spirit and supported the event through publicity via social media and the donation of tickets to Fernside volunteers and families.
While the grief of losing Caesar will never not be a part of Kristin, his children, their families or the multitude of friends they amassed together, we all, and I hope you all reading this, realize that yes, one person can actually do what seems impossible, make a difference and make good happen in the world.
Keep your eyes out for Kristin and The 43; because there is more goodness to come.
Kristin, more than anyone I know, you Runitlikeamom.
For more information about appendiceal cancer:
To donate to or to otherwise support Fernside:
(Image courtesy of Google Images)