Friday, May 3, 2013

Remember What Glows

Where did the month of April 2013 go? Between wicked larenygitis for two weeks, production on a television pilot and promoting FAT ANGIE, it's kind of a blur. A great blur nonetheless. While I'd like to fill this blog with fantastic reviews and details of the month, it's now May.

May 3rd.

It's been 10 years since an amazing light left this world too soon. Amanda J. Cunningham was that glow in an otherwise dim room. I was fortunate enough to have her as my best friend while earning my graduate degree at Ohio University.

The last time I saw her? May 1st, 2003. I had just returned from a seven month stint in New York at Killer Films to wrap up my thesis at O.U. And ... I had just got dumped by a less than stable person (devastation was at a high). The last thing I felt like doing was going to lunch, but I hadn't seen Amanda in a long time. So I dragged my heartbroken self out into the world. By the way Amanda and I, the whitest looking Mexicans in America, met up at a Mexican restaurant. We ordered nachos, required appetizer, and talked about my recent breakup and our futures. My foothold secured months earlier, I was ready to launch off to Los Angeles the day after graduation. As for Amanda, it was the first time I realized she didn't have a plan in place.

Amanda was a planner.

She wasn't sure of the what next. Weeks from graduation and no plan? The world was ours for the taking. Mine in film and hers, well, you name it. The plethora of opportunities for a gal who hung with the posh and the not so and came from a pretty ordinary existence were many. Amanda was the person who recreated the ordinary for everyone. She made certain everyone knew they mattered even when she had her own doubts and disappointments in her life.

She got people. She got motivation. She was kind of a leadership rockstar (if there could be one).

We chummed around. She reminded me, in that Amanda way, that this person (the dumpee) was not for me. We laughed, a lot. We chatted about an upcoming feature I was to produce (story on that some other time). We ate Mexican food.

The goodbye is something out of a film, so it will seem as though I've made it up.

Amanda and I were not affectionate. No hugging. No mushy words. So, when I pulled up to Court Street post Mexican food yum and dropped money in the meter, she caught me off guard. I had turned into a hug. I can't tell you how many times I've replayed that moment. Wishing I'd held on longer. Wishing I hadn't rattled off a semi-clever wise crack in the uncomfortable of that moment.

We made a pact. That we would share Cinco de Mayo (May 5th for the not-so Spanish speakers) together. Somehow in the years of knowing one another, we never had celebrated the event and this was the time to make it count.

We walked down opposite sides of the street. As I approached the crosswalk, she called out my name. I turned and the sound of traffic muffled what she was saying. I said we'd talk later.

We didn't.

It was at 6:42 am, May 4th. The room saturated in a morning blue light. I had only been in bed a few hours after late night editing on my thesis documentary. I got a call from a classmate that Amanda's car had been struck by a teen who failed to yield at a stop sign on May 3rd.

It was 6:42 am. The room was blue. The air stopped.

In that moment, a woman who inspired thousands in her hometown of Massillon, Ohio and Ohio University was gone. Her future of possibly working at NASA or coordinating academic leadership programs perished.

She was 23.

While the story of the fallout of losing Amanda is much longer, today I revisit this loss as I do every year on May 3rd. To honor her life. To honor the life and hope she inspired in me and countless others. She reminded me to slow down. To realize what was real and what was fake. She reminded me that I was not alone, and the work I would do would inspire and reach others.

When asked by a reporter about Amanda, I said, "Knowing Amanda was like getting to cradle the sun for a moment."

And it was ... that amazing.


  1. What a beautiful piece on my equally beautiful cousin! I am so glad you had the chance to know her and be touched by her heart!

  2. You write so beautifully and this brought tears and a smile. Thank you. Sending you a hug..Aunt Rosey