I went to a Relay for Life luminaria ceremony on Saturday evening. If you have never been to one, you really should go, if for no other reason than to make you understand how very important your own life is.
As the ceremony started a lone bag piper started walking playing “Amazing Grace.” If you’ve heard the song played on a bagpipe, you understand the chill that passes over you when that first note is piped. The hundreds of people who were at this event became silent and we fell in behind the piper and started waking the track lined with these luminaria bags.
The bags were decorated with pictures, poetry, names, faces, dates of those loved ones who have died from cancer, and those who are battling cancer.
I saw bags dedicated to moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and friends. I read poems and songs; and I cried. Not just for all the people who were missed on those bags, but for my own loved ones who are no longer a part of my life. I cried for many reasons.
I’m reminded of a line from “Moonstruck,” the movie, uttered by Cosmo:
"I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you're still gonna die! Just like everyone else!"
That is the hard truth for all of us. No matter what we do, we’re gonna die. It’s the common thread that runs throughout the world: death.
I came away from this ceremony with more emotions filling my head than I knew what to do with. This morning, I’m still filled with more than I know how to put down on paper.
Life is so precious, why do we all fight so much? Do we fight because we all want different things or do we fight because we all want the same things and are just not sure how to get them?
Do we really hate others or have we just not grown enough as a person to know and understand that the world does not revolve around who we are. The world is filled with billions of people; as individuals we are mere specks on a planet. You’d think we could find some way to respect each other.
Are we all just afraid of dying? Do some cling to religion because they must believe that there is something else – somewhere better – to move on to? And must they cling to that religion and their teachings of discrimination and hatred because of their fear of death? There have been countless religions since the beginning of our Earth. Who’s to say which one is the only one worthy of following?
And what if there isn’t something else? What if this life is all you have? Do you really want to spend it angry and hating and filled with disdain for other human beings simply because of where they were born or what they believe or who they love or the color of their skin or because someone dressed in their Sunday robe or dress or whatever – stands in front of your church or mosque or whatever your sanctuary is - and tells you to?
I believe that our goal, as human beings, should be to focus on the things that unite us and not that which divides us. Cancer doesn’t discriminate – gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Russian, someone everywhere in the world has suffered and died from cancer. If cancer doesn’t discriminate, why should we?
Is it the lesson for those of us who don’t have our names on a luminaria around a Relay for Life ceremonial track to focus on doing good and not evil – on loving instead of hating – on living instead of dying?
SDGLN Contributor Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.