Crystal was the best.Crystal died on Sunday. For over two and half years, she lived with melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer there is. She didn’t let it get to her, though. Crystal and I constantly made plans together, and she and I talked about everything in our lives, our careers, our relationships, our projects, our travels, and the world around us. We even spoke about the party the rest of us would throw after she was gone. She told me we would get together and talk about how great she was. She said we’d be fine. She knew we’d be fine, eventually. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know Crystal wanted us all to keep filling the world with beautiful, meaningful things, and most of all, to keep going.
So, now what?
We live our lives to the fullest.
When Crystal was diagnosed, she was told that making it to 30 would be a stretch. But years before she ever heard bad news, she had already embarked on a mission to try everything, excel at whatever she set her mind to, and make lasting improvements the world.
We are there for each other.
Crystal was a great friend, to me and to so many others. She really cared, and got to know so many people so well because she had no limits to her kindness. From the artists she welcomed at Red Gate’s residency in Beijing to the countless young people she helped inspire at Do Something, everyone will always remember her for her energy and the joy she spread around her everywhere she went.
We take care of each other.
One day, she emailed to ask a few close friends in town if one of us wouldn’t mind coming with her to a doctor’s appointment. I wrote back: “pick me.” I had no idea what I was signing up for, but like Crystal, I learned on the job. We learned together to speak the doctors’ lingo, and to be as charming and funny as possible so all the many nurses would remember that Crystal was the sassy redhead with bad veins and great style. They gave us extra pretzels & juice boxes, and hugs when we needed them. To all the doctors, nurses, and staff at all the hospitals we visited over the years, thank you for everything.
We make good things out of bad situations.
We spent countless hours in waiting rooms all over Manhattan, but instead of moping or reading silly magazines, we took advantage of the free wifi and worked on China Residencies. We didn’t do it because we needed distractions, although planning research trips, building programs, and applying for grants did keep our mind off things. We did it because there were things to get done. Later, when we realized that no one had built a better way for patients to take medical notes, we came up with Mello and started drawing wire frames in the waiting room.
We get shit done.
Crystal and I admired a lot of things about each other, and most of all, we loved that we tackled problems and banged out solutions. We were almost never the best suited for the jobs we took on, but since no one else was on it, we thought we’d give it a shot. While at Red Gate, she realized that there were countless fantastic artist residencies that few people had heard of, that all struggled with the same issues of running independent art spaces in mainland China. At the same time, artists and friends from all over the world would ask us how to get to China, so we thought that maybe a website might help.
We follow through.
Crystal had great ideas, and knew how to get the right people together to make them happen. And once she set things in motion, we worked tirelessly and were thrilled to see the things we made take off. China Residencies took us all around the world, and nothing made us prouder than knowing that people all over the world thought what we created was a good idea, too.
Crystal was generous. She shared her clothes, her thoughts, her advice, her time, and she above all though that no one had the right to hoard information. She believed that knowledge should be shared freely and openly, because the amount one person could gain from keeping things secret could never begin to add up to the benefit it could have out in the world for all to see. She taught herself new things all the time, and didn’t hesitate to teach others.
We do things that scare us.
She hated needles, so, in college, she volunteered to give blood whenever she had the chance. She never got over that particular fear, but she overcame countless other terrors, big and small. We decided together we wouldn’t be afraid of public speaking, we wouldn’t be scared to ask for a raise, and we wouldn’t fear death. What’s the use of fretting, when there’s things to do?
We stay curious.
Crystal always wanted to go on adventures. We wandered into abandoned buildings and climbed the turrets of a half-build amusement park castle. We rode our bikes everywhere, to concerts and art openings, to mountains and to the beach, and just for the hell of it. We made up new slang and new dance moves, and we always accepted invitations, because I knew that even if the party sucked, Crystal could still make anything fun.
We make things.
Crystal took beautiful photographs. She was a talented painter and designer, and, when artists asked if she was an artist herself, she would tell people about her food art performances. In Beijing, she baked Double Happiness cupcakes (red bean and red velvet, topped with cream cheese frosting and toasted black sesame seeds) and rode around in her turquoise sanlunche, giving away her lucky cupcakes for free in exchange for a small token, a story, or a song.