Never Stop Fighting…
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
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
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
American Alliance for Medical Cannabis