May 9, 2013
Less than a month after Rich died, my sweet friend Stephanie sent me a text asking if I would want to participate in our community's Relay for Life event to remember Richard. (For those of you that may not know what a Relay for Life event is: it is an all-night walk put on by the American Cancer Society. Participants put together teams and raise as much money as possible to help fund cancer research. The actual event takes place from 6pm-6am and it's just kind of a big community party with teams and volunteers to celebrate, honor and remember those that battle/have battled cancer.)
When she asked me, I took a little while to answer. I knew it was a good idea, but at the time I could not imagine participating. Fortunately, I remembered that it's not like the event was right then, it would be a few months down the road. I checked with Richard's mom and sister to see if they'd be on board, and once they gave me their blessing, I gave my blessing to Steph. "I just don't want to be in charge," I had told her. Stephanie selflessly took the lead and has not looked back since. How thankful I am for her.
Now, here we are, the night before the Relay for Life event and I am honestly and sincerely excited. I would be a liar if I said I've been excited about this thing the entire time. For awhile I was actually dreading it. Not because I did not believe it would be fun, or because I did not believe it's such a worthy event; because I knew it was going to be a total shit-show of emotions. My emotions. His family's emotions. His friends' emotions. My friends' emotions. His family's friends' emotions. Strangers' emotions (people on other teams, remembering their loved ones). And, hi. I don't know if you've met me...but I am not scared of emotions. So really, I don't know if it was the emotion of it all that I was scared of, or just the mere fact of rehashing it all again, but I was just not excited about it.
But now, I am so ready. I think it's going to be fantastic. And I know the only way I got to this state of mind has been through prayer. My own prayers, as well as prayers from friends and family. Answered prayers at their finest! What a wonderful celebration this should be. As I talked with my friend, Kelsey, yesterday about the event, she said something along the lines of , "you know, this may be another step of closure for everyone. This may bring more closure than a funeral ever could bring." And how true is that? Richard did not want a funeral or service of any type, so in a really broad sense, this will be like a funeral for him. After all, a funeral is supposed to be a celebration of the deceased's life. It is certainly hard to celebrate a loved one's life five days after they've left us. It just excites me to think that this is the type of thing Richard would want us to do. He'd want us to spend time honoring and remembering others that have battled cancer, in addition to remembering him. The Richard I knew never enjoyed having all of the attention on him. He'd much rather us serve others and do good deeds as the result of his death. The Lord planted those desires in his heart.
I, also, can't help but see this event as a sort chapter closing; not the ending of a book, just the ending of a chapter. Mind you, I know that my grieving process will continue to happen and that I will continue to mourn Richard's death even after tomorrow and I know that I will always miss him; but I do feel that it will help me (and hopefully others) to quietly flip the page and begin to focus more on the new normal ahead. Richard would certainly want us to move forward; he'd hate the fact that we were constantly crying over him, focusing on him.
Tonight it's so funny to me that I was dreading all of this even a few short weeks ago, because I now see it as the most appropriate thing we could do. I am so thankful for sweet Stephanie and my God that goes before me and that He always will go before me. He knew what He was doing when He planted the seed in Steph's heart to form a team for this event. Sneaky, sneaky God.
If you are reading this and you are nearby and you feel compelled to come join us at our Relay for Life event tomorrow, I sincerely hope you do just that. I can't express to you how much I would love to have you come be a part of our night. It could be for 3 hours or 3 minutes; there is no time too short or too long. If you are a friend of Richard's and feel like you have not gained the closure you need, please come join us; I think it is going to be therapeutic for everyone. And if you are reading this and you are not nearby, please know how much we wish you could be here.
I am so excited to walk tomorrow with Stephanie; with the sweet friends from my small group, one of which lost her mother to leukemia not that long ago; with Richard's mom and her friends; with Richard's sister and her friends; with my parents; with our friends from the gym we met at; with my friends that never even met Richard; with everyone that has felt led to join us. I am excited to spend the evening with others that are fortunate enough to celebrate survivors or mourn losses of loved ones.
It's going to be beautiful.
(Relay for Life Madison starts at 6pm but you may come-and-go at any time. It is being held at Bob Jones High School where Rich and his sister graduated from high school. It has been moved inside due to severe weather. Our team name is Remembering Richard. Come see us! http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=51092&pg=team&team_id=1334977)