Grappling with Life, and Sadness

"Here it was they lit the flame.
Here they sang about tomorrow
And tomorrow never came.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will sing no more…"

Les Misérables libretto, Alain Boublil

Last June, a large group of students from Andrew’s high school (including Andrew), came together at their school track for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. Twenty-four hours of walking or running the track to raise funds for cancer research, performed in shifts. The kids brought sleeping bags, guitars, ate pizza, drank cocoa, and stayed up all night. (There was very little, if any, sleeping done.) In the late hours of the night, the kids cried on each other’s shoulders, thinking of their loved ones who were either battling cancer or those who’d passed. Every kid there had some connection to cancer. Earlier that evening, Steve and I drove up to the track to say hello and see how things were going. We arrived just after the luminarias (bags with lit candles inside) had been set up, ringing the track’s oval. Each bag had a handwritten note on it, in honor, or in memory, of someone. We walked past the luminarias--a beautiful, powerful sight of candles flickering in the dark--and I cried. Emotions flooded to the surface, thoughts about where I’d been, what could have been, and how many people were grieving their loved ones.

Last night, we took Andrew to the wake of a classmate who’d just lost his fight with cancer.

What can possibly be sadder than a bright young life cut short?

The high school is small, the student body in shock, trying to grasp the death of a friend, their contemporary. I tried to grasp the cruel hand his parents have been dealt. But some things just are not possible to grasp. I looked into the eyes of the teachers and principal and saw the grief. We shared the understanding; no words needed to be spoken.

Sometimes life is just hard.

This June, Andrew and his group will participate in the Relay For Life again. This time, it will be in memory of their friend. And they’ll raise even more money than they did last year. A group of bright young people who are the hope for our future; one bright child whose potential will never be realized.

One day, we will have a cure for all cancers. One day, there will be no more children lost to cancer.

This will happen. As long as there are people determined to make this happen, it will. It has to. Hopefully in all of our lifetimes.

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