My Sad & Sweet “It’s A Wonderful Life” Moment: You Do Matter

Ren Willis
4 min readSep 9, 2020

I just had a strange, sad, and sweet moment that I thought I’d share.

Note: Names have been changed for privacy…

I popped on Facebook the other night and saw I had some message requests. Turns out the mother of Carrie, the person I dated through the my junior & senior years in high school, tried to reach out to me. It seemed a little odd since I had lost touch with her shortly after the break up in back in 91–92 and it was her mother, not her, reaching out… so before I wrote back or anything, I figured I’d sleuth around their public profiles & connections to see whatever happened to them.

It’s amazing what you can piece together from someone’s few public photos and the comments by people left on them on Facebook.

Since it’s been so many years (about 27 years), it was hard to tell who was who in the photos, but eventually as I scrolled to the older photos, I figured things out.

Back in the 90s, I was Carrie’s “gateway lesbian” (lol but true, it’s happened more than once in my life, that “90s bisexual enby life” before we knew what enbys even were), but after our break-up to a woman she connected with, last I had heard was that after that she had married someone to help them stay in the country. Details were hazy, but that was the last thing I knew.

Turns out, Carrie worked at an art gallery, which is awesome since we were art geeks back in high school. It was nice to see that. Also it seems, from what I could pick apart from older photos, she also had a kid and appeared to be single in the photos, but otherwise seemed to be living a nice little life with friends, family, and her daughter down in Florida.

But something was different in the more recent photos posted by her mom. It was less “happy family” photos and more random texts & religious photos and some random old scans of photos. Confused, I scrolled back a little and right before those, there was a person in some of them that was super skinny, wearing a wrap on their head, and barely recognizable….

It dawned on me, it was her. It was Carrie.

Then I clicked one of the childhood photos and saw lots of “sorry for you loss” type comments. And finally, I noticed the announcement photo.

She died 2 years ago after fighting cancer for 3 years. And that’s why it was her mom reaching out to me and not her. Not sure why now, but I assume she was just browsing on Facebook and saw a connection to a connection that had a name she remembered from her daughter’s life (91–92 was a pretty tumultuous time for her daughter and me).

I’m not sharing to get condolences, just sharing a sad, poignant moment.

It’s also not the end of the story.

Now that I had her full married name, I googled her and found something that touched me.

When her childhood best friend was getting married about 5–6 years ago, the wedding info was on a some cruise line’s website. I guess they were getting married on a cruise ship. Well, Carrie was the maid of honor.

Earlier this year I shared some high school yearbook photos I had found online to some friends, co-workers, and on Facebook. It included my Dead Chicken Society vegan poetry group. A group I founded after burying chicken bones next to my high school’s cafeteria and recited poetry. It became a weekly poetry lunch picnic meet up between my friends, including Carrie, and me. Just one of those weird oddball things our collection of artsy poetry friends would do

Well, I guess those days affected them more than I realized. This was the description on the cruise website about Carrie and her friend Summer:

Since the time Summer met her on the school bus (age 12), and so desperately tried to pull Carrie out of her shyness, Carrie was by her side. At age 16, Summer then had the boldness to confront Carrie accusing her of stealing her (Summer’s) boyfriend. Best friends for life since then!

From pulling hairs in History class, to burying a chicken in the lunch yard (ok, Summer wasn’t OFFICIALLY there for that), and passing a secret-coded notebook in high school. We continued with the ups and downs of relationships through the years, We enjoyed living together for a few years in Florida — Carrie and Summer were together through it all.

I remember Summer liking me back then, but Carrie & I were the ones who connected and dated. And of course, the Dead Chicken Society. It struck me how something way back then still meant something to them like 25 years later. Enough that it was one or two of the key moments in their own friendship.

It struck me.

It was a Jimmy Stewart “It’s A Wonderful Life” moment.

You never really know how your life truly affects other people’s lives, even after you’ve long since parted ways with them.

But… You do matter.

You do make a difference.

Rest in peace, Carrie

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