Relay for Life

I’ve been pondering a posting on loss since last October.  Within a month, I lost both an aunt and an uncle, and it has taken a long time to figure out what I wanted to say about this.  I think these are also times when it’s hard to know what to say about it.  Along these lines, my campus has a Relay for Life coming up soon and I am feeling compelled to write about my investment, especially this year, to the work of the American Cancer Society.
I grew up in a part of Southern Minnesota where cancer happens.  Not to everyone, but everyone knows multiple people affected by this horrible disease.  From an area with big families, where people just know each other.  This is a place where when someone passes, there are times when people show up en masse to the visitation and funeral.
Over the past few years, there have been a few rituals which are part of loss for my family.  One of these is a prayer which was recited by my uncle who was a priest and passed away shortly after I was born.  In fact, it was when my dad called him to say I was born that Father Denny shared his cancer was terminal.  This was nearly thirty years ago, and fighting colon cancer has come a long way since then, but I feel a special connection to Denny for a couple of reasons.  Additionally, he was ordained several years before I was born, but on the same date as my birthday.  So, whether I should or not, I like to think Father Denny has inspired my Catholicism in some unique ways.
We read this prayer at both my Uncle Donny and Aunt Kathy’s visitations last fall, followed by a praying of the Rosary.  Because of this, when my colleagues and I were out to eat one day earlier this spring, there was some humor poked at my purse still having a rosary in it, which is amusing, but realistic.
Another part of my family’s response to loss is, when we are all together, enjoying a Snowshoe Grog.  One of my dad’s best friends passed away a few years ago from cancer and in his final days, was reminiscing with my dad about snowmobile trips they would take when they were in their early youth and on which Phillips’ Snowshoe Grog was a part.  Now, when we get together, we enjoy a glass of Snowshoe and offer a prayer to DC.  It isn’t the best day beverage in the world (it might even be close to the worst tasting), but the ways we continue to embrace his legacy will live on for some time.
While this post has been about loss, and I am far from recognizing all of those people close to me and who inspire me who I have lost through cancer or other ways, I also have several friends and family members who are survivors of cancer.  For this I am eternally grateful.  I not only walk for those I have lost, but those whose faith has inspired me through their courage, heartache, and fight.  These cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends are some of the people most filled with love, faith, and care for others I know.  When another lap around the track seems like too much, they will inspire me to go further.
Now, I won’t be partaking in Snowshoe on the night that Relay for Life happens here.  It’s a campus event, and one in which I believe alcohol detracts from the event.  I will likely, after I hand the duty phone off to someone else, figure out a way to have a little sip the next day.  On a few laps, you might find me praying the Rosary for Father Denny, Uncle Donny, DC and others.  Even though I’ll be surrounded by my Cornell family, much of the night I’ll be with my Southern Minnesota and related families.
Do you Relay for Life?  Are there ways your family recognizes loss?  Interested in donating to my walking in Relay?

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