Saturday, September 20, 2008

Light the Night!

We have been back home for a week now and it has gone so fast and its been good in so many ways.  There have been many times when I have heard those cogs in my brain frantically cranking to get up to speed again, to dredge the things I know that I know, to the forefront again and get back to real life and the things that need to be done.  

Going through our mail that Steven collected while we were gone, I noticed that the Light the Night walk was tonight!  The first year after Steven's diagnosis, we were out of town on that fundraiser to Alaska, the second year I was angry about it all and this year - well this year I just wanted to walk.  Steven had made other plans and after the initial "oh what a pity" thought, it hit me how right this is...... we will walk in celebration of his ability to live his life to the fullest, to enjoy and not be tied down to leukemia in any way.

What an experience.  We had collected a few hundred dollars in the shop over the last few months and this was a good time to hand that over to the fight against this disease and we got a Light the Night t-shirt each to wear for the walk.  So I promptly hauled out my permanent marker sharpie and started writing names of people involved in cancer all over that shirt!  You should have seen the looks on people's faces.  I then did some fancy handwork and out from under the new written on t-shirt came my ordinary shirt and I was ready to walk.

And then we collected our balloons.  Together we carried four.  The red balloons are for the supporters to carry, the white ones for the survivors and the gold balloons are in memory of someone we loved that did not survive this disease.  We carried three red balloons and a goldie.  Frank carried his one for Steven,  I carried one red balloon in honor of Steven, one red onein honor of everyone I know dealing with leukemia - caregivers and fighters, with Cam and Cora at the top of that list and a beautiful gold balloon in memory of Adrian on behalf of Kay, Keith, Carrie and family.  Yup, I wrote on the balloons too.

The walk was held in downtown Chattanooga, right next to the Tennessee River at Coolidge Park.  It was beautiful there, with the sun setting over the river, highlighting the ripples on the river and lighting up the soft green grass of the park.  The park was full of people playing ball, throwing frizbee, listening to music, biking and just ambling around.  Then as the time went by everyone headed towards the Leukemia Light the Night Tents where the different color balloons were being blown up.  The colors all around were lovely and it was awesome to see that most people were smiling, kind, gentle and friendly.  It was quiet, not hushed as if something was wrong, just quiet in a way that said that everyone was on the same page and respectful of the very many feelings that were rushing through everyone and all at peace with being there.
The lady from the local chapter of the LLS gave a beautiful speech and four candles were lit in honor of those fighting this fight and those that have gone on ahead.  It really was beautiful and I want to contact her to ask her for a copy of that speech.  Then the walk started.  One very energetic and lively lady with a beautiful smile and a determined gait, led the way out of the park, on to the street and up to the first bridge.  

I don't know that I can explain the feeling of looking in front of me and over my shoulder and seeing a sea of balloons both ways and knowing that every one holding those balloons 'got it'.  They knew about the fight, from which ever angle they had to deal with blood cancer - they understood the scared's, the fears the hopes, the happies and they all seemed to know that it was ok to smile, to laugh and to live to the fullest too.  So, we swarmed over that bridge watching the last of the sun setting as some motor boats delivered even more ripples.  Some people passing by, not involved in the walk, looked at us all with puzzlement, others were explaining to their kids what this was all about but mostly none of them made eye contact and they carried that certain type of hush that says that they, thankfully, are not dealing with cancer in their lives!  Walking in a beautifully large group of supporters and survivors it was lovely to see so many that are not affected by cancer.

We trundled off the first bridge, through a little bit of downtown, nicely protected by the firmly raised hand of the traffic cops, down a lovely steep hill and on to the second bridge headed back to the park.  I was stuck by the number of young people walking and by the respect shown and the understanding and gentle arm touches amongst everyone as they passed by.  I walked with my balloons fluttering above me, and hoped so hard that even our small contribution, show of support to others, hoped that this would be at least one little drop in the ocean towards a cure.

As I walked I thought of all the love and caring that I have been shown over these last couple of years, of the friendships that have formed, the hope shared, the heartbreaks and the joy in good numbers.  How absolutely rich my life is!

Watching hundreds of people walking over the bridges with balloons with lights in them was very emotional and totally beautiful.  There was an old man that walked alone with a white balloon.  He did not seem to want to walk with anyone and hummed with a lovely smile as he walked, seemingly happy in his own space.  Then there was the family with the kid, still bald and with a t-shirt that said 'Survivor!' on it - he skipped almost the whole way with a beautiful smile and bright sparkly eyes!  Even the little kids were well behaved - there was no whining no crying - no matter how young they were.  Again, the number of people that seemed to be in their twenties, was quite amazing - I think they made the biggest group.

And then we wound our back off the bridge, and back into the park, through the row of luminaries that had been placed along the last part of the path.  I had put one up for Steven and one for Adrian.  Just seeing those lit candles got the tears running.  People, me included, took many pictures and we all took group pictures of others so that their group would be complete in the photos and memories.  
I did not want to leave there, I wanted to hang around until the last person had left and beyond - it was as if there was a little bit of everyone's soul there...........strange.  But off we ambled and then I spied a fountain.  Yup - water.  And we headed that way to capture this lit up fountain that was just beautiful in the night light. It's one of those fountains that you can walk around in and cool off or just enjoy, and right then two little kids did just that!  They twirled and jumped and laughed and kicked water in stark silloutte against the dancing water and gave us such a beautiful, innocent and hopeful end to one truly amazing evening.
Here are a good many photos - if I left anyone off my t-shirt, you were in my heart too.

love and light

Waiting to start:
Lets go!
Frank wishing...........
                                                      walking, hoping, caring
                                                           Over the bridge
For Steven
next year again

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