Relay for Life
Annie and I just completed the Relay for Life weekend, in Willits, California, which sought to heighten people’s awareness of cancer and its many ramifications, as well as to raise money for cancer research. Annie had officially joined the team at Geiger’s Long Valley Market, and had signed up to be in Willits for the two days. She also signed up to walk the Sunday fourAM-fiveAM and the fiveAM-sixAM shifts, because she figured I would want to walk with her, and we are both early morning people anyway.
All three of her sons were there on Saturday morning, as well as one of her daughters-in-law, for the “Survivors/Caregivers” walk, which followed introductory comments and an overview of the planned events. We had arrived early enough Saturday morning to be able to help Abbe decorate our booth in a Mardi Gras theme. Abbe had arrived with a store of decorations and as we worked, we watched two dozen other booths spring up along the route the relay would follow. All demonstrated creativity and color, while some provided a wealth of information about various forms of cancer, mostly motivated by close personal loss of loved ones.
After the initial ceremonies were concluded, Annie and I stayed around for a while, but then headed back to the apartment. Having walked to the site to begin with, we returned home, cutting through a few parking lots, and more or less traveling diagonally across town, which is what you can do when you live in a small town. It took thirteen minutes each way, to get from the center of Willits, to the park, located right across from the Willits Museum. Annie would return during the afternoon, while I stayed in the apartment and napped, having arisen at three in the AM, to take care of chores, so that I could leave the mountain no later than six.
Together, we returned Saturday evening for the luminaries ceremony and to listen to a cancer survivor’s personal account of his medical journey. Afterwards, we did a couple of laps, and got our first glimpse of the 351 white bags, lining both sides of the track, with names and brief messages on the outside, and burning candles on the inside. I know how many bags there were because I counted them: 188 on outside of the track; 163 on the inside. I had plenty of opportunity to count them, circumventing the track 34 times this morning. Purportedly, four times around the track was a mile, but there’s no way we walked eight and a half miles in two hours. We’re fast, but not that fast. I would guess that in two hours, we walked about six miles.
After watching Annie have a rough past week, I was thrilled to see her so rejuvenated by all of the hard work and good vibes these folks put out there. I know she enjoyed working with Bonnie and Anna, both good friends from her days in the school district, as well as Abbe and a couple of high school girls, one belonging to Anna and one to Jessica. I know she enjoyed seeing June walking her laps. I also know she wanted to be around others who are dealing with many of the same issues with which she has to contend. And I know she appreciated those who were there to support her.
For myself, I struggled through parts of the agenda, and I struggled to explain it to Annie. I felt guilty for not having that same seeming effervescent outlook that Annie had, and I felt overwhelmed at times, by the most innocuous of incidents. To say the least, I did not enjoy myself. After our two-hour-relay walk this morning, we returned to the apartment, where I promptly fell asleep, while Annie returned to the park, and walked more laps(!) before watching the concluding ceremonies. After she had returned, and I had awakened sufficiently enough to be coherent, we rehashed the weekend, and I tried again to figure out why I had such a hard time.
I think it goes back to a discussion JT and I had about fear of loss. Everyone at the Relay for Life had known someone who was battling cancer or who had lost a close loved one. Annie is battling cancer. It was just too hard to get a grip on what it would be like to lose her, for me to be relaxed enough get pleasure out of what I was experiencing. It seems pretty clear to me now that my fear of loss trumped any chance for enjoyment.
I only hope Annie makes appearances in each of the next twenty-five or so Relays for Life. If she does, I promise to enjoy them.