1 Being born in 1998, I consider myself at the end of the 90’s generation - not that I can remember much of it. I was lucky though because the memories I do have are of the pop culture and my experiences growing up during that time. The tool that helps me remember those experiences most is music.
2 For as long as I can remember, music has been a very important part of my life, even when I was very young.. I owned VHS tapes and CDs of almost every single Disney movie (this was before Disney got shitty, so I was in heaven). My first memory ever was dancing around the living room in my tiny shoebox apartment with my dad, blasting the hits from the Disney movies.
3 In the beginning of fourth grade, I had a rough time making friends. I wasn’t in the same class as my friends from the year before, and being young the concept of making friends was still new to me. At the end of the second week of school a girl sat down next to me at lunch and introduced herself, her name was Taylor. She asked me if I had seen Beyonce’s most recent music video, I wasn’t really aware of her music or even music videos for that matter. That day after school, Taylor showed the video to me and I was hooked. We continued to keep up the tradition of going to her grandma’s house everyday after school dancing and singing to the latest song that was out. That’s how we became best friends.
4 I found out that Taylor was diagnosed with Leukemia in December, 2010. My mom told me two days before Christmas. She came down the stairs of my grandma’s house and looked at me very seriously which meant two things: either I was in trouble, or something bad happened. She sat down next to me on the bed and her face looked really pained. She stared down at her lap as if she was trying to figure out how to begin giving me the news that will forever change my life. When she finally looked up at me, I could see that her eyes were watery and red. She grabbed my hand and said, “so, I need to tell you something...I really think you should know” her voice began to quiver, “it’s about Taylor.” She could barely say her name without breaking down into a puddle of tears. Then she took a deep breath and continued, “she was diagnosed with Leukemia this morning...it’s a form of cancer.” After she told me I didn’t say anything…I was stunned. At the time I was 11 years old and didn’t really understand what cancer was. I could tell it was bad by the way my mom was treating the situation. “She’s going to be ok” my mom said, “they caught it early so she’s going to be ok.” She kept repeating that over and over but I wasn’t listening. It felt like I got punched in the chest. I went into a trance, laid down and stared at the ceiling. A million thoughts and questions filled my mind like, what does this mean? Is she really going to be ok or is she going to die? How can I help her? How does this happen? Why her and not me? I was woken from my trace when I heard my mom ask me if I wanted to be alone. I nodded and watched her walk up the stairs, constantly turning back to see if I was ok or to see if I was crying. I didn’t cry. I thought I should, but I didn’t. Instead, I just laid there stunned, allowing the questions to fill my mind.
5 After she got diagnosed, I tried to spend as much time with her as I possibly could - which wasn’t hard considering we already spent every second together. Bruno Mars started his rise to fame around 2010 and Lazy Song instantly became one of his biggest hits. Taylor loved Bruno Mars so she played that fucking song all the time. Since she was on chemo, Taylor had a lot of weird cravings like V8 juices, Burger King chicken fries and her primary craving Pizza Hut. We would all pile into her family car and make the drive from Manhattan to a Pizza Hut in New Jersey. Every single time we would pile into that car, Bruno Mars would be blasting. Naturally, I hated the song because it’s so catchy and it would get stuck in my head every time it played. I eventually was able to get her to switch to another favorite song, but we would always go back to Bruno Mars. When I used to hear it, I’d roll my eyes and groan in agony, but now, whenever I hear the song it puts a big smile on my face.
6 It’s never easy to lose someone you love, especially a best friend at such a young age. Almost a year after she was diagnosed, Taylor passed away on October 20th, 2011, a day after her parents’ anniversary. I felt like a chunk of me had been taken and it left me feeling so empty and sad. Everything reminded me of her and songs that we’d listen to together, were now hard to hear alone. Her mom was a mess, obviously. It’s hard enough to lose a child, but Taylor was her first, her baby. I spent a lot of time with her family after Taylor’s passing. Three months after she passed, Taylor’s mom was driving to Costco in New Jersey and If I Die Young began to play on the radio. She couldn’t make it through the song to the chorus before shutting off the radio and pulling over to cry. She still can’t listen to the song to this day.
7 My biggest fear after Taylor passed was that I would lose contact with her amazing family. I grew up with them and couldn’t remember a time when they weren’t in my life. She has two younger sisters who were like sisters to me, and her parents were my second parents. I have grown to love all of them very much over the years so the thought of losing them scared me. Thankfully I didn’t end up losing them. On June 1st, Taylor’s birthday, we get together and have a birthday party for her. We catch up on each others lives, swim in their cousin's pool - it’s such a fun experience. At the end of the day, we release balloons in Taylor’s honor and then light sparklers. We treat it as a celebration and not as a sad time, something I really appreciate. We choose to remember her in a happy, positive light as opposed to a sad, dark one.
8 There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Taylor. I’ll see an object she loved, her favorite food or hear a song and I’ll immediately think of her and it puts the biggest smile on my face. When you lose someone, it's painful and that pain can consume you and prevent you from doing things in your life. A year after she passed, I decided to stop letting the pain consume me and instead accept it and remember all of the amazing memories I have of Taylor. By keeping in contact with her family and going on fun trips with them like I did when she was still with us it’s like she never left. So now, whenever I hear a song that reminds me of her it makes me happy and I feel like she is with me. I am still to this day able to feel close to her through music and memories and I am forever grateful for that.