I have become accustomed to the enthusiasm that surrounds and buoys the Relay for Life event in Littleton. There is a pattern that can be anticipated, a schedule of events with speakers, music both live and by DJ. There are tents lining the track and the aroma from grills as people prepare picnics. People mill about and there is the air of excitement about the event, as well there should be. Months of preparation, collaboration and organization have preceded the actual day (and night) and there is much to admire in the way it unfolds.
What continues to take my breath away is the generosity of participation in so many ways. The laughter and shouts diminish to an attentive quiet as the first speakers tell their story. They are direct and unsentimental, and an example of people living their lives after the jolting curve that cancer threw at them over ten years ago.
The most difficult moment for me personally is taking that survivor lap. It is an honor, but I am shy to receive applause as I walk around, feeling I have done nothing more than I could, or that anyone would in my position. It is at once a bittersweet reminder of the demands of my 18 months of treatment six years ago, and the easier waves I now ride. It is not something one forgets, and certainly my body sports the scars that bear this out. Mostly I choose not to pay attention to that, and focus instead on the delights of my life now –in my family, my friends, in riding my bike or seeing the world.
But even with the impact of that first lap, it is the power of the Luminaria lap that sees the tears rolling down my cheeks. Again, kicked off by an honest clear account of a challenge met with courage and grit, we take our places on this silent walk. Whether we are walking for parents, grandparents, friends or neighbors, it is clear that we are all touched by this disease, and we are all choosing life. Though we walk singly or in pairs, hand in hand or arms swinging, we are walking as a group. We are a huge unit working together on that night, combining efforts with groups across the nation and the world. What I take away most from the evening is the jubilance in the Relay for Life.