Everything We Leave Behind

by zchamu on January 7, 2014

What do we leave behind us?

I’m not talking about leftover food or dirty laundry. I mean what happens when we’re gone?

20 years ago, if I died unexpectedly, the things I left behind would have been quite different than today. I would have left behind scribbles and scraps and other people’s memories. Old term papers. Half finished diaries filled with teenage angst. Tiny, poorly focused snapshots. Someone else’s stories about me. Signatures on office documents. Everything I left was either meant for a purpose outside of my own story or never meant for other eyes.  The picture of me would have been only through cobbled together images and words, eventually forgotten. Wisps of stories, memories left in time.

Now? Piles upon piles of digital trails. Tweet streams and Facebook feeds. Blog posts, Instagram photos, forum conversations and/or arguments. Tracks left behind me, tracing every step.  With every tweet or comment, we write what we are going to leave behind us. Because we most assuredly will leave it behind.

All this technology has created a wealth of stories, stories we never would have found 20 years ago. Stories that make us laugh or cry or catch our breath. Words that teach us and surprise us and make us better people.

We leave traces behind every moment. We get to write our own legacies, even though with every day and every tweet and every throwaway glib comment, that’s not what we think we’re doing.  But in the end, it is. In some ways, it’s all we’re doing.

What we’ve left is what we’ve chosen to put out there.  What have you chosen?

Think about it. Really think about it. If you are gone tomorrow, or even in 20 years, what are you writing or doing or publishing today? Someday, someone will read it. What will they learn about you?

 

I never met Amanda. I didn’t even follow her until it was too late.  Which teaches me: Pay more attention.

I debated whether to make this video and debated more whether to post it. It’s not my story to tell, and I don’t know if Amanda would have wanted it told this way. But ultimately, I’ve chosen to publish it as a tribute to her, and a reminder to all of us: sometime, we will leave it behind. 

I have attempted to find Amanda’s full name in order to contact her family to let them know about this project.  I have been unable to find any further information. If you have any information on Amanda,  please leave me a comment or contact me at zchamu at gmail.

I want to thank Amanda for sharing her story with us. I’m just the messenger.

Music: Let Her Go by Passenger. Tweets: Amanda @TrappedAtMyDesk.  Originally shown at @BlissDomCanada.

My challenge to you for 2014: Look at what you’ve left behind. What is your legacy? 

 

UPDATE January 17, 2014.

 

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.

Thank you to everyone who viewed and shared the video. I hope that you have a chance to pause and reflect and send good wishes out there to Amanda and those she left behind.

I assembled this because I thought it was a lovely, touching story of a life lost too soon. I thought it was a good message, to be conscious of what you leave behind you and to live life to the fullest.  I shared it at BlissDom Canada and with some folks I knew and when I posted it here I thought maybe some Ottawa people who had interacted with her would share it. I was not expecting Jezebel or Buzzfeed or The Star or the Ottawa Citizen or Reddit or anywhere else that’s posted it.

Amanda’s story has obviously stuck with others as it did with me.

To answer a few questions:

I have not heard from her family. I would still like to do so. If I do hear from them, I will proceed according to their wishes.

Because I have not heard from them, I’d like to ask anyone looking for Amanda’s family or any information on her to please proceed sensitively. This is a story of a woman who died, after all, and those left behind her are grieving. Please, if you do find anyone connected to Amanda, please treat them with kindness and sensitivity and proceed according to their wishes.

I have had many people ask me if this is real or if I think it may be a hoax account. The answer is that I believe it is real, for many reasons, otherwise I never would have assembled the video. Sure, it’s possible it’s a fake, but I don’t think so.

 

Be good to each other.

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{ 82 comments }

Sassymonkey January 8, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Thank you for this. I try to be conscious of what I’m saying and sharing but probably more on Facebook than on other forms of social media. I needed this reminder.
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Rita Arens January 8, 2014 at 5:20 pm

This is sad and beautiful and jarring. I started stumbling and tweeting funny or beautiful things on weekday mornings a while back because I wanted to see and share more beautiful things. I was worried I wasn’t focusing on beautiful things.

I love that Amanda went on a trip and saw beautiful things.
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Denise January 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Holy hell. Thanks for this Shannon. And thank you to Amanda.
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Jenna January 8, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Thank you for sharing this story, for making us pause and think.

Thank you for sharing Amanda with us.
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Elisa Camahort Page January 9, 2014 at 1:28 am

Even though I knew the inevitable ending, it still hit me like a ton of bricks to read the last tweet. Thanks for sharing Amanda’s story.

Momo January 9, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Thank you for putting this together. It’s touching, beautiful, and heartbreaking. It’s a good reminder that life is short. May she rest in peace and may her heaven be filled with all things goth.

mara January 9, 2014 at 1:56 pm

This is really beautiful, and special. Getting to know someone through their tweets. That’s a real and proper use of social media.

Angella January 10, 2014 at 4:46 am

Crying. We have close friends who have lost two (Two!) people close to them because of brain cancer. Thanks, Shannon. I hope you find her family.
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DenVan January 13, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Beautiful.

Sherry Carr-Smith January 13, 2014 at 10:24 pm

This is so lovely and sad and thought provoking.

Shash January 14, 2014 at 1:22 am

Just as powerful as when you said you wanted to speak on the subject at BDC13. #snotbubbles
Shash recently posted..It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving!

Tanis Miller January 14, 2014 at 2:13 am

Beautiful. Haunting. I hope her family sees this and knows that she still lives on through the magic of the internet and everything she left behind.
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Crystal January 14, 2014 at 2:19 am

Shivers.

It gave me shivers and tears. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for getting me thinking.
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Pam Dillon January 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm

* goosebumps * Thank you for creating and sharing this. It’s beautiful and definitely inspiring.

Mel Gallant January 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Sad. Beautiful. Thanks for the reminder to pay attention, Shannon.
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Peggy January 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I am so glad that you have shared this Shannon. It haunted me after I saw it last fall at BlissdomCanada and made me more aware of my own digital trail. Thank you, SO much.

Suebob January 14, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Dang you, woman. Started my morning sobbing because of you. Beautiful.
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Rossana January 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Wow, this is incredible and haunting. Thank you for stopping to listen … and creating and sharing with us. It is a reminder for all of us.
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Shannon January 15, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Great post and tribute. Off to have a coffee and do some thinking….

Stephanie Montreuil January 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

What a beautiful tribute. I hope her family finds this post…

Denise Morrison January 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm

What I love is that she left her iPhone on the table when she left for her adventures. She wasn’t ultimately tweeting it or face booking it, she was living it.
Note to Self.

Elizabeth January 21, 2014 at 10:42 pm

I just thought I would mention that you can still fully live and have a cess to your phone and the internet. The choices we make from minute to minute all count. I say this as one who had her own sucky cancer diagnosis and took a trip with my phone and ipad. It was great for chronicaling my experience, and I only did it when it felt like the right thing to do. It can sometimes take away from the moment, but sometimes it can add something very special, too.
Elizabeth recently posted..Feeling sad and at a loss: Stuff on My Mind

Tabitha P January 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Wow! What a powerful reminder. We’re telling our youth they should be careful what they post now because it could affect their adulthood. But really we should be telling everyone to watch what they post ALL. THE. TIME. Because now it truly is your legacy. Great video, great post.
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Cherie-Lynn January 15, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Shannon this has left me speachless and teary. I so think that this is one of those post that will stay with me forever. The message is just so powerful.

Charlene January 15, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Doing the ugly cry. Beautiful.

Darlene January 15, 2014 at 5:33 pm

A beautiful tribute to this woman – she was so much stronger than most of us could ever hope to be. I hope you find her family – and I would love to know if she spoke to her Mom that night. Thank you for sharing.

Elizabeth January 21, 2014 at 11:18 pm

You never know how you will be, until you have a chance to be it. So many have said things to me like you said above. I don’t really think of being strong or courageous. I just think about getting moment to moment. I think most people “just” do what they do, and labels are more for those assigning them, than those who are labelled. I say this as a way of saying I think people are much more than they can be given credit for.
Elizabeth recently posted..Feeling sad and at a loss: Stuff on My Mind

Annie @ PhD in Parenting January 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I was in tears when I first saw this video at Blissdom Canada. I’m glad to see it getting more attention on the Internet this week. Something for everyone to think about.
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Christy Laverty January 15, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Wow…so moving. What an amazing tribute. I hope you do have the change to talk to her family… Thanks for sharing

Ivey January 15, 2014 at 6:26 pm

I was profoundly moved by the video and have been thinking about Amanda all day over here in Belgium. I’ve been reflecting on what she wrote, “forgive people…life is too short…”

Diana January 15, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I’m so glad that you made this video and posted it. That was absolutely beautiful! Thank you Shannon and Amanda! I’m going to write these quotes down and pin them on my wall and retweet them:
“Don’t spend time being angry at people. Forgive them. Life is entirely too short.”-Amanda
“Look at what you’ve left behind. What is your legacy?”-Shannon
“Pay more attention.”-Shannon
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Darren January 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

My mom passed away from cancer in May. It’s my birthday tomorrow. I won’t be able to work for the rest of the day, now.

Lucy Scholey January 15, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Hi Shannon,

I just watched your incredibly moving video and I would love to speak with you for an article. I’m a reporter with Metro News Ottawa.

Thank you for your time,

Lucy

Shana January 15, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Came here because of the Buzzfeed article. What a touching thing to do. So moving and so beautiful. And so sad. I hope she had a good final call with her mom.

Tony Chliek January 15, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Thank you for writing this and making the video and I’m crying like a baby. I lost my wife of 34 years to the same disease in 2005. After her first surgery, she lost the use of her left side, so we weren’t able to travel that much. One day she told me that she wanted me to take her to some of her favorite places here on Long Island before she died. So of course I took her where ever she wanted to go. We went out to Montauk Point. I wheeled her up the the wall next to the ocean. She asked me point out where Block Island was and point out a few other places we had been to. She looked around for a few minutes and told me that she was ready to leave. Next we went to the Montauk Yacht Club. We spent a week there with our friends many times on vacation. I wheeled her to the boardwalk. She looked around and told me that she was ready to leave. I took her to other places but never spent more than a few minutes everywhere we went, except for a place nicknamed Lunch, where they have the best lobster rolls you’ll find anywhere.

One day after her second brain surgery, she asked me two questions. “Will I see Nana again?” I told her yes. Then she asked me, “Will I see Fritz again? Fritz was our first dog. Again I told her yes. Then she said “Oh good.” She never mentioned dying again. You see, I told her “Yes” because when I was wounded in Vietnam, I saw myself dead on the ground and went into the light. I knew other people that had similar experiences, so I knew she would see them in Heaven once again. http://my-vietnam-stories.blogspot.com/

Barbara fought it for 2 1/2 years and died at home surrounded by her family.
Tony Chliek recently posted..Chapter 1: Drafted – May 6, 1968

claudia January 15, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Holy mother of all that is good. I met her once. Didn’t know about this.

The tribute is beautiful, though.

claudia January 15, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Jeez, just checked. We are still following each other on Twitter.

Shaken.

Last year was such a difficult time for me and barely checked Twitter but now I wish I had had a chance to… I don’t know… make her smile or something.
claudia recently posted..As Luck Would Have It

Don (@foodieprins) January 16, 2014 at 4:04 am

Oh the glimpses that make up Twitter, both meaningful and otherwise.

I just discovered she and I follow on another, which may explain the vague memory of tweeting with her about shared frustrations at work and the skull cookies…

Had no idea she passed away. Absolutely loved the tribute, Shannon. Well done!
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LC January 15, 2014 at 10:51 pm

this is exactly why i tweet.

CL90 January 15, 2014 at 11:22 pm

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, and yes it was a beautiful piece, but are you legally allowed to just copy and paste people’s Twitter feeds or things from their Facebook pages w/o permission from anyone? This actually freaks me out more than I found it touching. I lost my dad in August and would hate to think that someone could hijack his Facebook page and make it into an art piece. Just not right. Hope you have a good lawyer!

Tony Chliek January 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

Nothing you post on the internet is private. If you wanted it to be private, then don’t put it out there. Obviously Amanda want people to read her story, or she wouldn’t have posted it online and only shared it with her family and friends verbally. That’s why i made my blogs and doing that made me so many good friends. Some I’ve met in person and others I only know them online, but they all mean a lot to me and have helped me trough some of the darkest days of my life.
Tony Chliek recently posted..Chapter 1: Drafted – May 6, 1968

Anonymous January 17, 2014 at 2:27 am

Debbie Downer, if tweets were protected the controversial tweets made by politicians and celebrities would not be circulating the globe right now. If you don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, why are you threatening someone you don’t know with a lawsuit about someone you obviously didn’t understand. Clearly this young woman would not want your hostility connected to her experience in any way and I do hope you consider deleting your comment.

Anonymous January 17, 2014 at 7:36 am

I see no threat with a lawsuit. It was more of a question and concern, which Tony Chliek addressed. Please don’t make assumptions or speak for someone that can’t speak for themselves.

stephenboothuk January 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Copyright law allows for reasonable quoting for the purposes of news reporting, education, parody or the creation of derivative artistic works. I’d say this video tribute probably falls into the latter category. The only question a court might be called on to answer is whether the amount of original material was reasonable. The fact that it’s media shifting from written text t0 video would probably lead the court to take a more liberal view, as would the fact that the comments were posted on a pubic site that has an implicit ‘copy with attribution’ function (retweeting).

Stacy Claflin January 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Thanks for taking the time to put that together. That was beautiful.

I had a friend pass away from brain cancer. I wrote about her in my commentluv link.
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Old School/New School Mom January 16, 2014 at 12:53 am

Heartbreaking! What a beautiful tribute!
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Pete January 16, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Well done, and thanks.
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Craig January 17, 2014 at 12:55 am

Reminds me of this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyCk2ygkqEU

Equally sad. You bring a good point of how much more we leave behind than the generation before us. In this analogue world I guess it’s easier to just bury and move on…

Rowena January 17, 2014 at 1:15 am

Beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you for this <3
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JN January 17, 2014 at 1:32 am

Thanks for this..reminded me of Ecclesiaster 7:1-2

A good name* is better than good oil,+ and the day of death is better than the day of birth. 2 Better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting,+ for that is the end of every man, and the living should take it to heart.

- http://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/nwt/books/ecclesiastes/7/#v21007001

Theresa Champagne January 17, 2014 at 2:06 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. This was beautiful and set to the perfect song. Thank you.

The Old Wolf January 17, 2014 at 3:09 am

It was a beautiful tribute. Thank you for posting it. Sad and haunting, but in a positive way. My thoughts are with her family.
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CT January 17, 2014 at 3:17 am

Beautiful and sad at the same time. Made me stop and think. Thanks.

Erin January 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm

So why does this article say that you never started following “Amanda” until it was too late? According to the tweets you were talking with her as far back as 11/4/10. Supposedly she died in April 2013. Something sounds fishy to me here. Maybe some elaborate hoax by a blogger trying for their 15 minutes of fame? Or maybe a young girl really did die and some blogger was so invested in herself that she didn’t notice until nine months later. Maybe you should cut down on some of those “twitter friends” that you use to shamelessly promote yourself? Just a thought. Regardless of what it may really be, the above story just doesn’t sound right.

KrisDStar (@SweetAphrodite) January 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Do you twitter?
The answer is no, obviously.

Tweets that are public anyone can see, at any time, even years later – simply by reading the entire twitter line.

Erin January 19, 2014 at 10:44 pm

You apparently don’t understand what I said. The author of this video and blog has been friends with “Amanda” on twitter since 2010. She said that she didn’t start following “Amanda” until it was too late. Clearly that is a lie since “Amanda” died in April of 2013. That’s why I said something isn’t right.

zchamu January 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Hi Erin, I didn’t start following TrappedAtMyDesk account until after she died. We’d interacted once, but you don’t have to follow to interact. It’s hard to tell on twitter exactly when someone started “following” an account, and I don’t know when she started following me – obviously sometime before that.

Angel January 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Beautiful. Powerful. Resonates incredibly. I sincerely hope this isn’t a hoax.

Sam January 17, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Amanda may you RIP.
A reminder that we should live a full life!
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Robert January 17, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Remember. Remember at Amanda. Remembar at of all the people they never should have leave us. Thank you for the wonderful thoughs that you sharing you with me. The most importent people are still attended us. In our thoughs in our doings. Thanks

Robert January 25, 2014 at 1:52 am

Sorry

Fairuz Khan January 18, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I couldn’t stop my tears after watching this video. This is just so sad. And her final tweet really made me cry, so much!

I would really like to know more about her. Please keep us updated!

Thank you so much for sharing this!

cathy January 19, 2014 at 4:07 am

I’ve watched this a few times now and its incredibly moving. My husband died in August and I haven’t been able to cry until now. Thank you.

Elizabeth January 21, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Lots of love to you. I imagine things have been really tough. I hope it was a cry that really fed your soul. It can be so painful, and yet when it is over, the world feels so much different.
Elizabeth recently posted..Feeling sad and at a loss: Stuff on My Mind

zchamu January 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Hi Cathy,

Thank you for posting. I am so sorry for your loss. Please take care. I hope time heals your heart.

Shannon
zchamu recently posted..An Explanation.

Helen January 19, 2014 at 11:58 pm

This really resonated with me, I lost a sister 7 years ago, suddenly….life IS too short, forgive, forget, Say I love you, Im sorry…..

Helen January 19, 2014 at 11:59 pm

I resonated with this post, I lost a sister 7 years ago, Live, Love, Forgive and forget….Im sorry, I love you…
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zchamu January 22, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Hi Helen,

Thanks for posting. I am so sorry for your loss.

Shannon

Kath January 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Thank you for this. It really made me think and opened the floodgates on emotions I’ve been holding back. Diagnosed with a brain tumor 4/17/13.

zchamu January 22, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Hi Kath,

Thanks for posting. That diagnosis must have been tough. Best wishes with your treatment – do let us know how you’re doing.

Shannon

Elizabeth January 22, 2014 at 3:01 am

One of the things I wonder about is if there will be people saying and writing things like this about me when I am gone. For months now I have been sharing my story in words and images and video, but with not much reaction or response. While I would appreciate someone’s appreciation of me even when I am no longer here, I am HERE NOW and it would mean so much more to me while alive, as I would be able to interact with another, get to know them, appreciate who they are. I would get benefit out of knowing another as s/he gets to know me. I have tried to relay the urgency of taking action, but I sometimes thinks it gets lost in the terror people feel when cancer is involved. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt message, and it is my hope that anyone touched by your message finds an experience of it in their lives that is so much more than words and ideas that just sound good. I used to wonder if I disappeared from Twitter one day if anyone would notice, or care, and then one day, I did. How did those I used to tweet with respond? Mostly with…silence.
Elizabeth recently posted..Feeling sad and at a loss: Stuff on My Mind

zchamu January 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for posting. And yes, I think you’ve touched on something really strong here – the fact that people get scared when someone else has cancer. They say that when you face something like this, you never know who is going to be there or not be there for you – I think that’s true, and I think it has a lot to do with people just not knowing how to deal. Maybe people just need to realize that jumping in to help and maybe saying or doing the wrong thing is better than avoiding. I wish you well and hope 2014 brings light and joy in to your life.

Shannon

MattG January 22, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Incredible video. Thank you for publishing it. Was remarkable…through those Tweets we were able to see a fascinating glimpse of someone unique and spirited. I wish I met her when she was still with us.

Dee January 24, 2014 at 4:40 am

Thank you for producing and sharing this hauntingly beautiful video. From the first moment I viewed it I’ve been re-visiting various sites that make mention of Amanda Trappedatmydesk to see if she has yet been identified; if her family has yet been found. What struck me the most was not so much her tweets, but the lack of response to her tweets. What haunts me is the seemingly lack of compassion by her followers to her heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, life-sucking tweets. She cried out into the hollows, and nobody heard.

zchamu January 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Hi Dee,

Yeah. That was part of what I felt bad about – that I hadn’t paid better attention when she was alive. Am trying to pay better attention now.

Candy January 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Just a beautiful memorial…That has touched MANY people…and it is picking up speed going viral… I was genuinely in tears….and you are so right…What would you have left behind if tomorrow never came… Pay attention to the small,beautiful things LIFE has to offer… REALLY~ Don’t sweat the small stuff… If you woke up HEALTHY this morning….everything else can be fixed!

zchamu January 27, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Hi Candy,

Exactly. Thanks for sharing. :)

Erik January 26, 2014 at 12:23 am

I’ve watch this video a few times. The comments on this thread moved me also. People who have not grieved yet. Until now. The horrible grief made a bit better by knowing we are not alone.

zchamu January 27, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Hi Erik, thanks for commenting. I am with you – the stories people are sharing are hitting home. Making me do a lot of thinking.

NI January 27, 2014 at 11:03 pm

send a tweet to contact family, the account seems to be still active and now controlled by her brother, see the profile

dee brun January 29, 2014 at 2:10 pm

This was beautiful and sad…And after the last 2 weeks I just spent in Central American learning to live…Haunting…You did a good thing by making this Shannon…It will touch many people and make them think…Well done mama…

The Animated Woman January 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Deeply touching…universally meaningful. Beautifully done. Thank-you for the reminder <3

JC
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