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Never Stop Fighting

Never Stop Fighting…

Or Caring…


In Memory of Laura J. Carden


November 3, 2002


Jay R. Cavanaugh, PhD


It is not enough to say Laura Carden (LJ) was my friend. The old truck driver with the bent spine and 49’er jersey was more than a friend. She was, and is, an inspiration. In a day of phony politicians, institutional indifference, general complacency, and everyday dishonesty, LJ was a breath of fresh air.


Life dealt LJ some tough cards. Her spine had more twists than Highway 49 through the Gold Country. The lines on her craggy face showed her battle with pain over way too many years. Yet, she didn’t complain. Yet, she was beautiful.


Laura was an American patriot of the first order. Lord how Laura loved her America. She knew this great country of ours better than most having traveled its byroads and back roads in State after State. She always said to take the slow road, the scenic route, the way less traveled. It was because of this love that she was so angry with what she saw America becoming. Laura saw a nation of morons, a nation of cowards, a nation that treated the old and the sick with less than contempt. Laura’s America had turned its back on her in denying her disability and banning the one safe medicine that helped her. At one point in Laura’s life she was filled with hate and overflowing with anger at a government that betrayed a person like herself who had worked hard all of her life.


Laura was in agonizing pain every day of her adult life. She had no discs left in her spine and the fusions had all failed. But Laura had a secret friend that kept her going. Cannabis sativa was her friend and it was Cannabis that kept Laura on the road and off the mind numbing narcotics the doctors wanted her to take. For this secret the “man” wanted her in jail. She didn’t care. Only those who have been prisoners of their own sick and pain filled bodies know how little the government threats really mean and only those who have coped with the impossible and know the hearts of others can really dismiss the government efforts to stamp out Cannabis for what they actually are, lies.


Cannabis relieved Laura’s pain and let her rest and sleep. One day, Cannabis did something truly spectacular when it introduced LJ to a legion of new friends in the medical cannabis movement. Laura learned something so important, so vital, that it must be mentioned as a crowning achievement to a life filled with accomplishments. Laura learned to take her pain, her anguish, her despair, and her anger, and spin it into a golden mosaic of love and service to others.


To most of us, adversity turns to an acidic bitterness that destroys us from within. This is what the enemy wants and expects. Laura transformed adversity into service to others and transcended pain into serenity. She was not religious but you could tell she loved common folks. She was not political but you could tell she felt that a determined individual could make a difference. She was not a romantic but she loved ideas.


Before you think that Laura just found Cannabis and turned into a love child you must know that she also felt something so important that once again it must be highlighted. She felt responsibility for others who faced the same plight as she did. This responsibility made her love the oppressed and made her fierce in fighting those who would hurt or imprison the sick. Only five feet tall if she could have stood straight, every fiber in LJ’s body could tense and spring when faced with injustice and she looked ten feet tall.


A year ago Laura began her last battle. This time the enemy was breast cancer. The enemy took her life but Laura won the war. An intensely private person, LJ let us in the “movement” know about her condition and let us be with her and help as we could. Fellow patients delivered her bud flowers, tincture, cannabutter, and from Oregon, the elixir of the Saints. For many months Laura continued her activities on behalf of the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis. Given a new computer she turned her talent of writing into a blizzard of letters to the editor. She was present at every demonstration, every trial, and every celebration she could possibly make.


For many months before the seizures began, she drove the Canny Bus from patient gathering to patient gathering. She helped start the cannabis rescheduling petition now before the DEA. She put politicians on the spot. She drove this writer thousands of miles helping him to organize efforts to bring safe and affordable cannabis medicine to the sick and dying. She helped at harvest time. She counseled and advised. She took care of me when I was very sick and very discouraged. My wife Nancy is very grateful for how well LJ took care of me.


Now that cancer has taken Laura’s life and retired the Canny Bus, it seems I should be in deeper mourning. Yet like so many who have written to express support following her death, I feel proud more than anything else, proud to have known such an extraordinary ordinary person.


I cannot speak for Judy or Pat or Eric or Dave or Cher or so many others who knew and loved Laura. They each have their own significant testament of LJ’s life. The fact that so many were touched by LJ is testament enough but there is one thing more. It is not about her family with whom she finally reconciled or the details of a hard death or her love of NASCAR or Fords. It is about Laura’s last words to me.


I asked Laura shortly before a demonstration six weeks ago in Sacramento what she would say if only she could be there. She said she would tell me but didn’t call and the demonstration went ahead dedicated to her. Still I wondered. Just two weeks ago, shortly before her death from the metastatic brain tumors, I spoke to Laura a last time. I tried to console her with my faith but she didn’t need consoling. She wasn’t finished. She told me this and I share this with you, she said, “never stop fighting and never stop caring”.


What a wonderful gift to leave.


Don’t think that Laura is now at peace. That wasn’t LJ. She may be in heaven but my bones tell me she is here as well. She whispers in my ear, “Never stop fighting, and never stop caring”. I can hear her as if she were shouting. If the DEA, the Attorney General, the pharmaceutical companies, and all the warped control freak drug warriors thought they had a bobcat on their behinds when Laura was alive, they have something infinitely greater fighting them now. They have a transcendent Laura who helped transform hundreds of us who in turn are helping to transform thousands more who in turn will turn the tide with a wave of reform from millions of caring Americans.


My last words to Laura were a plea to her to close her eyes and that we’d all be there with her when she awoke. She’s awake now and so am I. Together with all of her dear friends we stand together, a loving family, spinning gold from the broken bits and pieces of shattered lives. Spinning gold and shouting to those still asleep, “wake up, never stop fighting, and never stop caring…”


Yours in faith,

Jay R. Cavanaugh, PhD

National Director

American Alliance for Medical Cannabis


West Hills, California

(818) 346-4493




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