Tonight my daughter shined with the satisfaction of accomplishment and goodness but she couldn’t outshine me, her mom, who looked at her with the greatest of love and pride. She’s a leader though I am not sure she knew that until recently. She was always, ever since she was a baby, doing her own thing, to the beat of a different drummer; she followed her own drumbeat and didn’t care what others thought. When it was time to graduate nursery school with all her little classmates, Jillian insisted on wearing her blue Cinderella gown to the ceremony, there was no talking her out of it and in the end, I’m glad she knew what she wanted so strongly. She hasn’t changed.
When I saw my daughter tonight at the Relay For Life, Cancer Foundation Event, with her arms outstretched to hug me I wanted to hold her tight and never let her go. “I’m so proud of you” I murmured into her soft blonde hair. And I am. She collected over 1100 dollars to donate for cancer research but it’s so much more than just that. She has developed into a beautiful, strong, young woman with conviction and strong emotions, strong principles and an incredibly large heart.
If you’ve never been to a Relay for Life activity you are missing out. Everyone seems to know someone living with cancer or has lost friends or family because of it. This event is to honor and remember all friends, family, loved ones. It is a such a moving ceremony and the kids in high school organize it. My daughter being one of those organizers.
There is a Survivors dinner and a Survivors walk around the track; it begins with Melissa Etheredge’s beautiful song, blaring over the speakers “I Run For Life.” Last year I bawled seeing my friends walk around the track. This year I was smarter. I clapped and shouted to cheer them on, I didn’t cry or let them see me cry this year. This was their night to shine, not mine to distract. I am honoring them in their fight, I am mourning the people I have lost to cancer.
At 9:30pm when it is very dark out, the luminarias are lit. Luminarias are white paper bags that you pay ten dollars for in order to honor or remember a loved one who has or had cancer. They are filled with sand and placed around the track with a candle glowing in each one. You can write an inscription on them or decorate them. I didn’t see the one I bought for my friend I lost to cancer this year, but it didn’t matter, I’m sure she knew, it was there. There were many bags for a friend of mine who is has been living with cancer for a number of years now. Her daughter, and now her son, lead the event. To see their whole family, arms around each other, walking together during the survivor’s lap was both heartbreaking and beautiful. I think of this friend all the time; I made her family dinner quite often when she was sick so she didn’t have to think about food. I tried to nourish in whatever way I could; in whatever way she let me in and allowed me to help.
Another vision in my head this year, that will stay with me forever, was a mom or a friend of the mom who take a picture of one of the luminaria bags that had been written by their children in memory of their dad. That image will stay with me forever. She kneeled down on the track and used her cell phone to take a picture of the luminaria, that was written with “I miss you Daddy” and covered with red hearts and yellow flowers.
I feel thankful and blessed that I can go to the event and when we leave, we leave with an emotionally packed heart and never with a dry eye. The girls on my daughter’s team and all the other teams sleep over in tents though sleep is a questionable word. My daughter swears she will pull an all-nighter and when my sweet, strong and amazing daughter says she will do something; it happens; no question about it.
I am in awe of my daughter and I admire her, for the person she is, the person she has become. A lovely and beautiful young lady with compassion and tenderness and yes, great individuality and strength; a star, whose life makes mine shine brighter.