|Cindy, volunteer at Honor and Celebrate, posing in front of the message canvas|
People have rapt, confiding expressions on their faces when they stand in front of a canvas, Sharpie in hand, and write messages to certain someones who will never read them, because they've died. Seen from my perch in the Honor and Celebrate tent, they stand quietly, letting the busy world fade, then their lips begin to move, then their hands.
• I love you mamma
• For my husband Patrick — Happy Anniversary
• If all you can do is crawl, start crawling —from a fellow human
• JEAN LEWIS
• Memories of Maria, a thoughtful and decent person
Many returned their Sharpies without meeting my eyes and walked away quickly.
|Student volunteers from UC Davis|
who set up the message canvas
Cindy was the other volunteer at Honor and Celebrate. She had successful brain surgery for a benign tumor in the '90s, and has been intending to come to the Walk every year since. But something always came up. We were lucky she made it this time, because she had a deft touch in setting out the Sharpies, and fluffing the paper roses we used for the Remembrance Ceremony.
Around forty of us gathered by the tent at 9. We passed out kleenex, and paper roses, then Rev. Will Hocker from UCSF led us in a reading of Epitaph by Merrit Malloy:
When I die
Give what left of me away
And old men that wait to die.
And if you need to cry,
Cry for your brother
Walking the street beside you.
And when you need me
Put your arms
And give them
What you need to give to me.
I want to leave you something.
Look for me
In the people I've known
And if you cannot give me away
At least let me live on in your eyes
And not in your mind.
You can love me most
Hands touch hands
By letting bodies touch bodies,
And by letting go
That need to be free.
Love doesn't die.
So, when all that's left of me
Give me away.
Painfully beautiful, like the setting — spectacular clear vistas, but chilly, and breezy enough for we hearing impaireds to lose some of the Reverend's words, and to not be able to fully appreciate the acoustic guitar accompaniment.
After the ceremony, a survivor told an inspiring story from the main stage, about how she married and had a child after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Then the walkers started off in the direction of the Golden Gate, encouraged by a troupe of taiko drummers.
Unlike on previous years, when the walkers returned, they did not hear a speaker from the research community telling of
|Suzy on left|
My old friend Oded Angel, he of the fateful New Years Day bike ride, came at noon to help us pack . He was a welcome sight. For me and many other volunteers, the day had started at 6:30 am with a couple of hours of hard and inglorious physical labor, carrying heavy boxes from a U-Haul, unfolding tables and chairs.
By mid-day I'd started to fade. Oded helped until we were packed up, then biked off to visit his sister in San Francisco. Before he left, he said he was glad to come to honor my wife. Simple words, meant a lot. Like the simple words Sharpied on the canvas.
|∏-Rats of Crissy Fields|
Team Jolly Roger, a tradition at the Walk
• Miss you daddy! Every day since May 11, 2011 -- your little baby girl
• Our dearest love, Suzi -- Team Shine a light by the Bay
• The Jolly Rogers, YO HO" (Team members names in interlocking hearts)
• Friends of mine touched by Brain Tumors — Dennis, Kathryn, Sirus, Wasina
If too much upbeat cancer talk brings you down, or you find yourself wishing that the '!' would suddenly disappear from the world's keyboards, you might appreciate this poem. If this were a radio show, it would be dedicated to all the cancer patients who didn't make it.
by Carol Teltschick
After the evening news
The name of every person
who died from cancer today
A photo of each face
How they looked before, and after,
The list of treatments that did not save them
We could observe a moment of silence
for each of these people
after our dinner
We could give them that
If only it wouldn’t take
the whole damn night
(Cancer kills more than 1500 people a day in the U.S. alone)