Remembering Relay

Yesterday was a bittersweet day as I awoke thinking about Robbie and his final weeks. Given the distance of time, his diagnosis of new leukemia in July and passing in August now seems incredibly swift.

Fortunately, having our nephew Tim and his pals come to install a new roof provided a wonderful distraction from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (They did a lovely job, thank you, and we’re good for the next three decades.)

Deb and I then paid a visit to the annual Relay for Life over at the high school. Several of his friends formed a team in his honor and we went to join them for the Luminary ceremony.  It felt smaller than last year and whereas I couldn’t go five feet without running into someone I knew, this year, it took a little longer.

It also felt odd since Robbie’s participation in the event last summer was the last time he was out with his friends, done with his chemo and thinking he was on the mend. He rocked out at karaoke, and was surrounded with a large circle of friends.

This year was vastly different. Circumstances kept some away and emotions kept others far from the school. Those who were there walked and had fun but as we gathered for the ceremony, and the lights faded, it was a somber affair.  The high school’s acapella group sang and then there were remarks reminding us why we were all there, to honor those who did not survive and those who did; to raise funds to aid research that has prolonged lives and cured others. We were then called to the track in groups: those who lost spouses, parents, siblings, children, and so on. We snapped our glow sticks to life and took our place then when the track was filled, there was a silent lap as the group sang again.

Tears were shed, not just by us, but from his friends, too. I sometimes forget how hard it has been on them and while we keep in touch, coming to the house or seeing us must be a hard reminder for them.

pictures-063On Friday night, some of Robbie’s convention friends elsewhere in the state formed Robbie’s Rubber Duckies, and their proud mom Susan Olesen reports, they “raised more than $1,500 for Relay for Life (not counting operating expenses).  Most of them stayed the night, despite horrific rain and a tent that at one point had 2″ of water in it (thankfully, I’d brought towels and quickly learned how to swab a tent).   Rina did a great job trying to organize everything, and I think she learned a lot about fundraising, organizing, and who your real friends are.  It was our first time at Relay, and at times was quite touching.  It was quite a sight to see.”

Relay is a great way to give back and to honor those afflicted with any form of cancer. I loved seeing the team t-shirts, banners, signs, and large groups who have turned this into a real part of their lives.

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