Have you ever attended a Relay for Life event? Arriving you see the signs, the banners announcing the event, staged at the entrance to the track. Your eyes scan the many tents that fill the area around the field. You begin to drool just a bit as your belly grumbles in anticipation as the aroma of foods being prepared fill the air. You hear the laughter and chatter of the people already there. Music plays from the stage, it may be a live band, it may be recordings announced by a dj. You can’t help but smile at those who are attempting to do the latest dance craze. There is color everywhere. Each color representing a different cancer. There are ribbons, bracelets, shirts, balloons, all manner of crafts filling the booths meant for fundraising. Its like walking in the middle of a kaleidoscope that keeps shifting and moving. It is Relay and it is a feast for the senses.
Then you notice, while there are all manner of colors everywhere, lining the track are white, paper bags. Wandering over you notice that on the outside of the bags there are labels that either have the words, “In Honor Of” or “In Memory Of” and a name in bold letters. Inside the bags are candles. These are Luminaria Bags. People have purchased these bags -at $10 each- to honor a survivor, or in memory of one who lost their cancer battle. It is a way to pay tribute to a loved one, a friend, a co-worker, the person who waits on you at your favorite restaurant, or the friend of a friend of a friend. No matter who we are, we have all been touched by cancer in some way. Those of you who know me, whether in real life, or the virtual one, through that association with me – a cancer survivor- you have been touched.
Ten dollars may not seem like a large sum of money (while, yes I know that to those who are struggling financially it is), when you start adding each ten dollars together it adds up quickly. Money that goes toward research to find that cure, to find better ways of treatments, to fund the many programs, the rider program, the look good feel good, the HOPE house. The ACS online site where you can find someone to ask questions and where you can get informational phamplets to help you better understand. Just to name a few.
At a designated hour, volunteers begin lighting the candles inside the bags, then where possible the lights are turned off. The track is lit only by the light of the candles burning within the bags, back lighting the name on the outside of the bag. The music is silenced and you are walking in the quiet, the somberness of the moment one that touches the heart and brings tears to your eyes as you think of the people who belong to the names on the many bags. You recall a smile, a personality, a memory of you and them doing something compassionate or silly or just passing time together. You remember them and you miss them and you realize that the luminaria are more than just paper bags. They are a momentary reminder of the treasure that person was, or still is. You know those who are fighting the good fight and you are determined to do what you can do to help them win the battle.
The fight isn’t over yet……..but we’re working hard, fighting hard for that very thing. We’ve lost too many to this disease. Too many special people, too many people who were loved dearly are gone. Too many people that we love, that we treasure, that we respect and appreciate are fighting. We can’t take the battle on for them, not physically, but we can step up and do what we can by volunteering for Relay events, helping with fundraisers, volunteering for the many programs…or by purchasing luminaria bags- so that others will see the name, and remember, and that person will live on in the heart and minds of those who see the name. Or that someone who didn’t know about the survivor’s battle will see and contact them to see if there is anything they need, if there is some way that they can help.
The East Gaston, Stanley/Belmont Relay for Life event is coming up. We are only weeks away and we would love to line the walking track and Common ground several rows deep. Have you purchased any luminaria yet in memory or honor of someone? It isn’t too late. Let that loved one, that friend, that co-worker, that friend of a friend of a friend, know that they have been thought of by purchasing a luminaria in their honor. Let the family of one we’ve lost know that their family member was important to someone by purchasing a bag in their memory. Its only ten dollars….can’t you skip that one fast food meal? Can’t you miss that one cup of Starbucks to help finish the fight? For them?
You can purchase Luminaria Bags online by following the link to my profile page- there you will find a link to purchase the bags. If you prefer not to do it online- message me and we can take care of it in person.. or you can drop it in the mail to my post office box PO Box 371, Stanley, NC 28164
Any one who is too far away, or who can not attend our Relay event for any reason, and who purchases a Luminaria if you want, I will photograph the bag and send you the picture if you let me know you want it.
Cancer is a non-discriminatory disease. It doesn’t care how old you are, who you are, what you do for a living, if you’re a parent, a friend, a sister, brother, aunt, uncle..black, white, purple, orange, male, female. Cancer doesn’t care. Too many people have been left hurting from the loss of someone important. Lives are changed, even for the caregivers to those who survive, for the survivor..its time, to finish this..and we can do it together. Progress is being made every day- but we can’t do it without you.