Archive for the ‘Cancer Society Relay for Life essay’ Category

Dylan Thomas wrote:

“Do not go gentle into that good night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Just after dawn on this relay morning I woke up with that line in my head…woke up with the recent memories of the luminary lighting ceremony, the benediction prayer, the soft strains of “Amazing Grace” sung by Penny…the team leaders carrying the flames that moments later would illuminate the names of loved ones who had fought and either won, lost, or were continuing to fight the good fight against their cancer.

In the time during the struggle my family endured alongside my stricken mother, and the time that has passed in the following years, I came to realize that the patient isn’t the only soul who is forever affected by the indiscriminate nature of cancer. I have been forever touched inside, by not only the loss inflicted by this worst of all diseases, but by the loss of innocence it forces upon us, the loss of sleep it continues to impose on those left behind, and the loss of understanding we search for to somehow justify the senseless suffering that cancer imposes on the victims, the family members, friends, neighbors, and caregivers, both young and old.

Last evening I witnessed a collective raging against the dying of the light…a glow encircling the track not unlike a halo of defiance sending out the message that, despite the heartlessness of the beast, a gathering of names, of stories, of prayers, and of faithful travelers in the still of evening spoke out against the forces of darkness.  We will not go gently into that good night. We will bring our own light; a message of will and determination to break the cycle of impending darkness, of deprivation and sorrow, the anger and time stolen from our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

So we assemble in a show of oneness and undying determination against the never resting cycle of degradation and deprivation of life and lives consumed by this demon called cancer. And we vow to carry our vigil from dusk, thru the spell of darkness, until we all emerge again in the light of the infant dawn. We are a collection of friends and strangers with a kindred spirit and a common bond. We form a family of veterans in the good fight to end this relentless march of darkness looming from beyond the shadows and staring down upon us all.  We are an eclectic combining of individual candles shimmering into a collective raging flame of diligent souls who “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Shortly after the silent lap and as the stadium lights were still doused, I stood at the side of a stranger, peering into the candlelit night and up into the bleachers at the side of our battleground. From a vantage point to left of the bleachers, I could easily make out the word “HOPE” spelled out in assembled luminary bags in front of me.  But the next word appeared as a menagerie of glowing bags without reason or definition. The stranger there with me offered up the explanation that the second word was “hard to see”, but that it read “CURE”.

At that very moment my poet’s heart recognized the gravity of the moment, the irony of the jumbled word eluding my understanding…just as the cure itself lies somewhere out there still…in another collection of nights…other relays…in the misty light of a long awaited and very welcome dawn. Or perhaps cure will debut as flashes of blinding lightning bolts in the velvety midnight sky. Until that day, we will have to rely on each other for the light, lean on God for the light, resort to the lingering light of the memories of our loved ones lost to the celestial discharge. Before the cure becomes a reality, rather than a hard-to-decipher encryption in the metaphoric bleachers before us in a hope-filled night in June, we will continue to circle the track to join hearts, hands, prayers, voices and share stories.

Harry Chapin used to sing of life being “a circle with no clear-cut beginnings, and so far; no dead ends.”  He spoke of having a “funny feeling that we’ll all get together again.”  In the case of our yearly relay and the reasons for our holding it, Harry’s words were sadly prophetic. I love the camaraderie of this annual event. I look forward to us all gathering to reminisce our loved ones lost, of the battles won by survivors, and to just share in the essence of knowing the experience as we do.  But I mostly look forward to being able to look back in retrospect on the day when cures to the multitudes of cancers were found…when our diligence was rewarded with success and we are able to honor the loss of our loved ones with validation of our efforts to find those cures. Right now the circle of cancer in our lives is presenting us with far too many dead ends, and the discovery of the illness presents us with stark and solemn clear-cut beginnings. I join all of you in hoping that the only dead ends we find are the ends of a search for the cure…to the beginning of gathering in celebration and looking on our June gatherings in retrospect, rather than as a vigil continued.

Until then, I will join you in providing the light after darkness falls, in the circling of the track, in the joining of hearts, prayers, voices and well intentions…to rage against the dying of the light…and the circles in our lives ending with sorrow rather than continuing with jubilation. I am honored to join you all in the good fight, and to not go gentle in that good night, but to continue fighting until the dawn brings us victories and validations for the lives perished and rewards us for nights of sleep lost…

Be well, and continue to relay, until we need relay no more.

June, 16, 2007   Matthew Lyle Landsman

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