"Today Call Me Feathered"
By: Julie Gardner
Today call me feathered. I have been since last Saturday when, at the Relay For Life in Camarillo, California, I purchased a feathery purple boa with a stanza from an Emily Dickinson poem attached at one end:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops at all.
I’m a huge fan of Emily Dickinson and couldn’t pass up the symbolism. But what I loved most about the boa were the statistics and information about colo-rectal cancer on the backside of the poem. Because while hope is vital to fighting cancer, awareness is equally important.
This was the message emphasized last weekend while my kids, along with the black belt team from the Tang Soo Do University, took part in the 24-hour Relay to support the American Cancer Society.
At the Opening Ceremonies, none of us knew what to expect. But these people planned to Do. Some. Good!
Anyone who laments the sorry state of “teenagers these days” hasn’t met our group. They are fabulous beyond words and I love every single one of them. Even those I didn’t birth. Which is the majority. (Fortunately.)
The day started out overcast, but our spirits remained bright. We were there to make a difference. (Not just to purchase fine feathered accessories.)
The Relay For Life honors those affected by cancer; but it also seeks to spread awareness and information. The track was lined with signs displaying statistics about different types of cancers as well as support systems and prevention opportunities.
I read this and went straight to the Cancer Prevention Study tent to enroll in CPS 3. One survey. Seven teaspoons of blood. Zero stress. Okay, they measured our waists and said the number out loud. But in centimeters so no one flinched. Much.
Still. To promote the cause of cancer prevention, I’m sure everyone would’ve announced their numbers over the PA system.
In inches, even.
Meanwhile, our team and their families walked and walked and walked. This group had just completed seven miles around the track. Their goal was to finish a marathon and they kept count by stringing a new bead with each lap.
Here’s Jack’s string, now hanging artfully from a wall sconce:
Karly dropped her necklace after her 105th lap at 3:00 in the morning. The beads scatteredeverywhere but my girl didn’t care.
She knew the necklace wasn’t the point.
This. This was the point.
Halfway through the 24-hours, everyone in the stadium gathered to watch the luminaries glow. We held our breath collectively as the word HOPE lit the darkness. Stories were told, songs sung, tears shed.
The Relay continued throughout the night and into the morning as soft pajamas replaced denim shorts.
After 26.2 miles, the boys rested. I think this is what pride looks like. Or maybe exhaustion. Possibly both.
The parents of these kids (some of whom are on the team or black belts themselves) walked as well. But most adults avoid pictures when they haven’t brushed their teeth or combed their hair. (Not me, of course. I love it.)
You may think I shouldn’t joke when the subject-matter is cancer. But sometimes we need to laugh to keep from crying; to look for happiness behind great loss. Love dwells in the middle:Without it there would be no pain; but also no more joy.
After six years of training together, the people with whom we Gardners walked this weekend have become family. Together we’ve faced failure and success; love and marriage; birth and, sadly, death.
I wore purple feathers in the hope that their work and my words could inspire others to take a step (or 26.2 miles of them) to Do. Some. Good.
That we can lessen our grief by sharing as much gladness as possible.
For this exhausted little person:
And this bigger one:For everyone.Oh yes.Because hope is the thing with feathers.Enough for us to fly.