Celebrating their lives

Last night I was hanging out with Joe and Jessie and she was talking about a 5K event Joe ran in remembrance of Jessie’s dad, who passed away in March. She was talking about how emotional the event was, which is understandable because the wounds of her loss are still so fresh. She’s in what she is calling a season of grief and I won’t forget how lost that can make you feel.

Something she said last night triggered a memory I’d completely buried somewhere in my mind. I have to share it, even though now, years later, I can see how sad it is. But it’s important.

I don’t know how old I was– either in junior high, or maybe a freshman in high school. My mom and I used to sing together at various events, like Marietta’s annual choir performance of “The Messiah” with the orchestra, or in this case, a choir in Caldwell that rehearsed for a few weeks in order to sing at the local Relay For Life event that spring.

I don’t know what songs we sang, but I remember thinking during our weekly rehearsals how pretty those selections were, and maybe one in particular. It was a long time ago. But the night we finally performed, I got really emotional, thinking about my mom, and how she’d had cancer herself but lived to be there to sing at an event memorializing those who hadn’t been so lucky. I remember literally crying while singing, and after we were done I went off by myself and cried so, so hard. My mom found me sitting on the ground and somehow she knew exactly what I was thinking. She assured me she was better now, and we had nothing to worry about.

Of course, years later, those comforting words are no longer true, but they were then. I am glad we had that moment together and I wish I had said more. But maybe I didn’t have to with her.

She was sick the first time, leukemia then, when I was four or five and by the time I understood what a terminal illness was she was out of the woods. I do remember a couple of occasions as a kid or teen when I really did stop and profoundly feel and think about it, and I just marveled at how lucky my family was that my mom beat such gloomy odds. I think I remember hearing a figure of something like a five-year life expectancy, and I’ll be damned if she didn’t stretch that out to 17. Thank God she didn’t go before I was ten, because I’m absolutely sure I’d be a different person.

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