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Honoring a Legacy


Earlier this month, Adventist Health and Rideout certified nursing assistant Curtis Collier was driving with his father, Chris, and sharing a story about the heavy metal concert he attended the night before. He had connected with some fellow headbangers and bonded in particular with their son, an adolescent on the autism spectrum. They talked about the band they were seeing that night, heavy metal music overall, and shared some of their favorite bands and songs.

In the car, Chris Collier smiled.

“He told me ‘That’s exactly what your mom would do,’” Curtis said. “She enjoyed interacting with people, and she befriended people that no one else would talk to. That the was the type of person she was.”

The father-son duo was on their way to the 26th annual Pink October Run/Walk in Marysville, where more than 100 Adventist Health and Rideout associates and family members joined forces with the community on Oct. 7 in support of breast cancer awareness. Curtis and Chris wore boutonnieres made of carnations in honor of Linda Collier, who passed away from breast cancer when Curtis was 10 years old.

Fond Memories

Curtis, a Rideout associate since 2008, was born and raised in the Yuba-Sutter area. He was five years old when her mother discovered a lump in her breast. An ultrasound revealed that it had metastasized and spread, and at 30 years old, Linda Collier was given less than six months to live.

“I don’t remember a whole lot from when I was 10. But she always had a smile on her face,” Curtis said. “She was happy and outgoing. I don’t really have any negative memories that I can think of.”

Linda lived for five years after her diagnosis, and Curtis said it felt like she was at peace at the end. In the face of mortality, Linda and Chris made a concerted effort to make the most of the time they had.

“She didn’t hide anything from us,” Curtis said. “She wanted to have as many experiences with us as she could, while she still could.”

A Lasting Legacy

Linda’s surgeon attended her funeral, telling Chris that his late wife was a testament to the existence of God because of her character and faith. Curtis keeps in touch with some of his mother’s old bible study friends, and they regularly remark on Linda’s uplifting and positive spirit.

“The impact that she had on the people in her circle was so positive,” Curtis said. “She was all about love and loving people.”

For Curtis, remembering his mother means finding ways to honor her whenever he can. He’s worn pink every single day in October so far. He shares his mother’s story as often as he can in hopes of inspiring others in similar situations with their loved ones. And for the second time, he and his father were side-by-side at the Pink October Run/Walk in remembrance of Linda Collier.

“Grief doesn’t go away. Those feelings you feel are real, and raw,” said Curtis, who added that October is particularly tough as a marker of both Linda’s birthday and her passing. “I had to make a choice. I could be resentful and hurt and all that. Or I could try to keep moving forward and incorporate her into my life.”

Now 39, Curtis has hit several milestones in his life. He’s married, has had his first child, and is pursuing a career as a nurse. Undoubtedly, it has been tough to reach those moments without his mother by his side. But he does everything he can to keep her memory alive and believes she would be proud of the person he’s become.

“I don’t know how she’d feel about the heavy metal,” Curtis said, laughing. “But she loved people unconditionally, and I try to exude that myself. I think she would absolutely love me as a person.”