"Each year The American Childhood Cancer Organization, during the December holiday season, has a 25 foot tree that is solely decorated with thousands of gold ribbons (the symbol for childhood cancer). Each ribbon bears the name of a child who has, or has had cancer.
Thousands of gold ribbons are ordered by families every year, Each ribbon represents a childhood interrupted or even cut short by cancer. These gold ribbons hold deep personal meaning for thousands of families across the country."
This year I bought several ribbons - some in memory of (Gavin, Gariella, Shayla), some in honor of (Mathis, Tara, Dryden). Then I was mad because I forgot Kyle - but luckily someone else caught that for me. A year ago today - I only thought in terms of my own family and friends and now its this whole extended thing (friends of friends). The tree is strikingly beautiful with each ribbon handcrafted by a small army of volunteers with the name of the child, age, and hometown. The tree, while absolutely stunning in its appearance, is a stark reminder that for these families (and this is a small representation) their lives are forever changed. For the survivors and cancer fighters, some will be undergoing treatments and testing during the holidays. The fear will never end that the disease will spread or come back in some other form, while for others - they have no voice because they are no longer with us. On this tree lies these children's Spirit, Courage, and Strength but it also serves to remind us that the world has been robbed of the potential of what might have been, what these kids would have aspired to, the great change and contribution to society they would have made, and the lives they would have touched.
I struggle to find anything positive in all this. I try not to make these blogs so gloomy but I can't help the hole in my heart and the infinite sadness I feel. Believe me, I want too. When I put up my decorations this year - it was not done with the same enthusiasm I normally attack decorating with. I came across a picture in a Chistmas frame (I bring it out every year) that the Kim family gave us years ago of our kids (Rupps, Speckhards, Kims - three neighbors all in a row, three families with kids that are growing up together, three moms who love wine, three dads that hang out in the gargemahjal) and it brought back memories of standing in line at the Nature Center so the kids could see Santa and we could get that annual picture all famiiles like to get. Knowing that this year, one of those kids is not here. It's unjust, its a painful reminder, and it shouldn't be. Reading Ellyn Miller's Facebook post on how everything outside the house reminds her of her daughter, and extrapolating that to how these families now have to will deal with coming across these special ornaments, stockings, and even making Christmas card decisions - all brutal.
Just when I was thinking Logan had gotten through the grief of losing a neighbor and friend, she tells me she had a horrible day yesterday beacause she could not get Gavin off her mind. She woke up this morning with dark circles under her eyes, groggy from not enough sleep and asked me who will fill the hole in the world that Gavin has left with things undone and potential unfullfilled (I struggle to word this correctly in her words - though I understood perfectly the meaning). From her sadness, I realize how thankful I am that Gavin touched my family. I am thankful I met Gabriella and her family. I am thankful I have met some great inspirational people like Tattoo Tom and learned Shayla's story, or had the chance to sit and speak with Tara about the loss of her friend, and see Mathias surrounded by friends of his own. I am thankful I have worked side by side with my neighbors, thankful for making new friends and thankful I find it within me to strive for greatness because others have been able to pull the best out of me somehow. Thankful I can be a part of change through events and organizations like the Truth 365, Kyles Kamp, Stilbrave, Smashing Walnuts and of course, iPromise15. I am thankful and grateful to live in a community that rallies around our children (sick and healthy) and their families. We will need this spririt moving forward because we have a long brutal fight ahead of us. Cancer leaves no winners behind - only survivors and victims in its wake.
2013 came in like a lion, a beast - it roared. It clawed. It beat it's drum. It knocked us blind and senseless. It gnashed it's ugly teeth. It killed without discrimination, without care, without reason. It beat us back as a community. It tried to destroy families. It was an ugly, bloody battle and we lost some of our strongest and bravest - unacceptable losses. I want it to go out with a whimper, beaten, broken, weak, alone, afraid, torn apart, exhausted, blind, shirveled, and utterly eradicated from the surface of this planet. Cancer cannot break spirit, it cannot take away our unified voices, our will, our fight, it cannot kill us all. So on this tree - is pinned, in no small part, my hope, my dream, my wish and my will to fight again and again until I have no voice left.