Friday, June 13, 2014

Relay Snapshots

There are some moments that you want to freeze and remember in your mind like a picture. 

Those "firsts", "lasts", the most memorable times that you are sure you'll never forget.

And sometimes, in the moment, you don't even know they are important. 

This is one of those moments.

Today, as I sat at Douthitt Park getting ready for this year's Relay For Life of Breathitt County, I pictured this in my mind. 

I couldn't remember what Grandma was wearing, but I knew Papaw had on this jacket, and I knew he'd have a smile on his face.

This time last year, my Grandma and Grandpa stayed at Relay later than I did.  Memories were made with my cousins and aunts.

We never really thought we wouldn't be able to snap a picture like this again...

but isn't that how life works?

For so many individuals who fight cancer day in and day out, they appreciate each and every moment.  They know that tomorrow is not promised, yet they never give up hope.  So many of these individuals come to my mind as I type this.  I'll see many of them tonight, decked out in their purple survivor tee-shirts, circling the track and going to the middle of the stage to allow us to celebrate their lives.

As Holly reads the names of these survivors during the luminary ceremony, I'll think of their faces, and the faces of their loved ones.  I'll focus on what they went through or may still be going through, and think of survivors in other counties, such as my inspiration, Debbie Hogg.  For many of them, their stories are a part of me... maybe only in third person, but still close, because one good thing about small towns is that we know each other and most of the time love each other, especially when tragedy strikes. 

As the luminary ceremony goes on, I zone out as I read the "In Memory" names. Names that are as familiar to me as my own.  Family friends like Todd Noble. School year friends like Brad Lockard and Kevin Rice.  Family like my aunt Jo. 

And this year, Mamaw Na... who beat vocal cord cancer but lost a battle with heart failure.

I usually do pretty well reading those names.  I'm not going to lie, it's emotionally exhausting, because for so many of them I know how hard they fought.  I remember how their families grieved. For some of them, I might have cared for them as they lost their struggle.

Tonight, though, I can't promise that I won't cry, because I've been teary eyed all day...

and that's ok.  The spirit of Relay is Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back.  Tonight, I'll celebrate my Papaw Jr. as he circles the track for the Survivors Lap. I'm pretty sure in his head he'll hear Mamaw say, "Come on, June."  By Relaying, I'm fighting back, providing hope.  Relay dollars support cancer research. Our committee support the work of Hope Lodge, to provide cancer patients and their caregiver a free place to stay during cancer treatments.

And I'll remember.  I'll remember my Mamaw, and I'll also remember that life isn't about the temporary.  I don't think it is coincidental that three books I've been reading this week have quoted the verse from Revelations about no tears or death in Heaven, and how He will wipe away our tears. 

And as I face tonight, I'll focus on those memories, and try to save them in my mind.  As my Aunt Nora posted on Facebook, I'll cherish dancing in the field with my family, holding hands with Caleb sometime through the night, winning Name that Tune, listening to my cousins laugh, watching Papaw try not to fall asleep in the chair...

Remembering that joy and sadness can go hand in hand... and this first Relay without Mamaw, though emotional, will be special as my family continues to heal. And I'll know that Grandma will be looking down, and will be saying, "Will someone please make Junior get up and walk a lap around that track? "

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