“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” - Martin Luther King Jr.
No one can ever be certain how the world will remember us after we are gone.
Most of us hope that our children and spouses will remember the deep love we had for them and the care we gave them.
We hope our friends will harken back to fun and laughter and remember us as honest, trustworthy and kind.
But what about the rest of the world?
Will we ever have the chance to do something big enough for someone else that a ripple effect will be felt long after we have left this earthly world?
Stephenville’s Julie Carrillo answered that question with her own final wish.
In lieu of flowers at her memorial service, Julie requested that donations be made to the family of Luke Nelson, a Stephenville boy who has been battling a rare form of childhood cancer since last year.
His mother Mia said she was contacted by Julie’s family a few days before her recent passing.
“They let us know about Julie’s wish to bless Luke and how she had prayed for him even through her own cancer battle,” Mia said. “It was so humbling and heartbreaking to hear that even in her last few days she was thinking about Luke and not herself.
“Her prayers and devotion to Luke were incredible and her gift will help him as he goes down the road of treating all of the side effects from his cancer treatments.”
Julie’s family, however, say her decision to help Luke was no surprise at all.
Her sister Shawna Slaughter said Julie was always giving.
“She was just a good soul, a very good soul,” Shawna said. “She wanted you to have it first, and was never greedy. She was like that her entire life.”
I also had the opportunity to talk to Julie’s husband Gilbert.
It was an emotional conversation; one full of love, emotion and tears.
He said Julie made the decision to help Luke about two months before her passing.
“She told me and the kids that she didn’t want flowers, and instead wanted to help someone else,” Gilbert said. “She had a list of people, and of course, the kids picked Luke.”
Gilbert went on to talk about their 17-year marriage and how most people never saw one without the other.
“That’s just how it was,” he said. “We were a pretty tight team.”
Julie will be honored posthumously by the Professional Bull Riders with the 2017 Sharon Shoulders Award during the Heroes and Legends Celebration before the world finals.
The award recognizes women of professional bull riding who have influenced the sport and industry.
It’s a fitting tribute after a challenging couple of years.
“There are no words to explain what going through cancer is like,” Gilbert said. “There is not enough money, not enough thank you’s to all the people who help when you have this disease.”
Julie’s passing has been a difficult one, but the blow is somehow softened by her own final act of kindness.
I’ve written thousands of stories during my career, but few resonate like Julie’s.
Her story makes us dig deep and take a hard look at how we live our own lives.
It also forces us to ask ourselves that all-important question Martin Luther King Jr. posed so long ago: “What are you doing for others?”
If you are having trouble answering that, honor Julie’s wish by making a donation to a little boy facing a long road ahead.
Then say a prayer of comfort for Julie’s family.
Donations to Luke Nelson’s medical fund can be made at First Financial Bank of Stephenville under the care of Clint and Mia Nelson.
Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ETeditor.