Celebration of Life
Although it is now Saturday afternoon, May 22nd, I am posting tomorrow's entry. Tomorrow is our 17th annual Celebration of Life, and I know there will be no time to write this blog. Some of your are familiar with this wonderful event that began with about 75 people and now hosts almost 1000 cancer patients/survivors, caregivers, families, and friends at the Harvard Medical School. Every year when I arrive, I pause on the street to take in the scene: the enormous tent, flowers, many people, music, conversation and laughter, and I am overcome with happiness for what we have accomplished together.
This is definitely a team effort. Although I have been the master-mind and primary organizer all these years, there is now a wonderful and experienced group who raise money (it costs almost $100,000 to offer this at no cost to attendees), organize the art and writings, plan the food, recruit the workshop speakers and attend to a zillion details. It is wonderful to see old friends at each COL, people who are doing fine and return to remind themselves of what they have experienced and survived.
For many ofus, and, certainly for me, each year's Celebration of Life is a marker event. I keep track of passing time by birthdays, certain holidays, and this day. Another year with all its troubles and stresses and burdens and blessings. So many blessings. This year, I am most grateful to have been present for my younger daughter's wedding in September. This is what I wrote at that time:
On February 9, 1993, I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, I was the single parent of two daughters: one away in college and one, only 12 years old, who was home with me. You know what my biggest worry was. You know that my grief about possibly leaving them, and most especially my younger girl, was inconsolable. I began by setting not-too-distant goals. I wanted to live to see her start high school. Then I hoped to be at her high school graduation. The dream expanded as time passed.
In April 2005, I was diagnosed with a second breast cancer. By then, both daughters were young adults, and my worry was less acute. Of course, I did not want to die and leave them, but I knew they would manage. I had remarried, and I also knew that their wonderful stepfather would continue to love and watch over them.
On Saturday, the 12th, Julia, now almost 29, is getting married. I am going to be there. I am going to be there with a bursting heart, dancing feet, and tears in my eyes. I am going to be thinking about all of us, about the women I have known and loved and lost who did not reach their dream of being at a child's wedding. I am going to remember their courage and their pain, and I am going to wish all of their sons and daughters all the love and hopes that their mothers carried for them.
My husband is officiating at the ceremony. I am walking Julia down the aisle. Right before we start walking, as I look at all the people whom I love most in the world, all the people who love her and the wonderful man she is marrying, as I see my husband and her husband-to-be waiting for us....At that moment, I carry all of our dreams with me. And I say "thank you."
Today, once again, I am remembering and saying "thank you."