The power of Relay for Life isn’t just in the money it raises to fight cancer.
A large part of the power lies in the metaphor.
The relay goes on for hours, the walk around and around the track sometimes seeming to go on forever. By the time you get deep into the night, walking becomes trudging, and there are moments when it feels like if you had to do it alone, you just wouldn’t make it.
But you’re not alone. You have family and friends bolstering your trip round the track, maybe taking some of the laps for you.
And other families and their friends are out there, too, sharing the long road, and if necessary, continuing where you leave off.
And those brown paper bags lining the track, dimly lit with candles that seem to brighten immensely when you read notes left by loved ones who remember – who will always remember – are somehow sad and inspiring and joyful, all at the same time.
The first time I took part in the Langley Relay for Life it was really just for the experience. It was something to do. To be able to say, “Yeah. I did that.”
I raised some money and I kicked in some bucks. It was for a good cause, after all.
But I had no idea how important it really was.
Because I didn’t really understand how powerful the metaphor would be.
When those dim candles in the brown paper bags flared up, I didn’t realize at first that the brightening effect comes from tears.
You don’t notice your own tears at first, because the simplest reminders of loved ones lost to cancer can be strong enough to stop your breath for just a moment.
The notes and the bags and the candles and all of the people walking around the track with you are reminders of what has been lost to that terrible disease.
And they’re also reminders of what has been gained. Cancers that used to be universal death sentences are now falling to research, much of it built on what was lost.
That’s when you realize those bags are filled with hope – hope that walks around the track with you, disguised as the faces of family and friends and complete strangers. Both lost and gained.
That, and the tears – together, they brighten the candles.