They are a strange thing. Generally they are a time of remembering firsts or commemorating major (happy) life events. However, I find that more often than not, Hallmark doesn’t carry cards for the anniversaries remembered the most.
Yesterday was a double anniversary for me. It marked one year since I fell and broke my right femur. Not just a little crack, this was the mother of breaks (I’m taking a careful bow), an eight-inch displacement that came very close to my femoral artery (anyone who watches hospital dramas knows what THAT means) and making me an official member of the Bad Ass Club. However, time moves faster than we think, I healed fairly well and one year later, I found myself on the track for another anniversary, our eighth annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life, cheering on my mother, tearful and proud, as she carried the Survivor banner for the Opening Lap of the event.
In 2003, my Mom was in her fourth month of chemotherapy to treat (and beat) breast cancer. Coincidentally (Divine intervention, perhaps), I had been hired at the American Cancer Society (ACS) a week after her diagnosis. I supported the event coordinators of the Relay For Life, the ACS' signature fundraising event. Having never been to a Relay before, I didn't know what to expect, but I knew that they had a Survivor celebration. Though our futures were uncertain and she was still technically “in treatment,” I wanted Mom to be part of that celebration.
While the months of her treatment are somewhat a blur to me now, I remember that night clearly. Having lost her hair, her head was wrapped in a bandana and she wore a maroon t-shirt emblazond with scrolling white letters that read, Surviving in Style. So very appropriate if you know my mother. Though it was a sticky, humid August evening and Mom was fatigued from the treatment, she stayed until the sun went down and the track was filled with Luminarias, candles burning bright with the names of those living with and lost to cancer. As silence fell and the names were read, I held my Mom’s hand while we slowly walked around the track, saying a silent prayer for each name on the bag and taking a moment to stop and stare at those with her own name on them. I remember holding onto her and thinking, “What if this is the last time we do this?” The moon was high and bright and the sky clear and I made a wish…Star Light, Star Bright…
Last night, another sticky, humid August evening, we returned to the track and were greeted by hugs from other Survivors and Caregivers who have been making the laps with us since that first Relay. Though she has received a purple Survivor shirt each year since 2003, Mom showed up in her maroon Surviving in Style t-shirt. I stood in the stands and watched as she took an end of the Survivor banner and again, lead the procession celebrating survival and celebrating Life.
As the sun went down and the stars appeared, the candles were lit once again. This time, joined by my sister, the three of us walked the track in silence, listening to the names from the speakers above. We found ourselves stopping more often than we did that first year, stopping to say a silent prayer for each loved one we had placed on that track and each candle that burns in their honor and memory.
As the ache in my femur reminded me that one year before, I was lying in a hospital bed, the stars above reminded me that I had been on this track before and as I held onto my Mom’s arm, I said a quiet “Thank You” and made another wish.
In Honor of:
In Loving Memory of: