So last week I had the please and honor of going to Virginia to participate in The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life that was held in my home county. We had a wonderful team called Cousins For a Cure that was headed up by my wonderful cousin Jackie. She put a lot of work and effort into getting us all organized. She not only captained our team, she was also one of the co-chairs for the whole event. I know she had to be exhausted afterwards. That was a massive amount of work.
The relay was a great success. I think the Nelson Relay for Life raised over $120,000. I know to some of you that might not seem like a lot of money but I think this was only the 2nd or 3rd year for one to be held in our small county and the money raised was equivalent to $8 per person for every person in the county! Yes, it is a very rural county and not as densely populated as some.
We had not arrived in Virginia until about 2 or 3 in the morning on Saturday morning (the day the relay started). We had left Atlanta around 4:30 so rush hour had already started but we got to the other side of Atlanta before it got too bad but then we ran into a couple different places where they were doing construction so that delayed us. Then we actually stopped and went inside a restaurant to eat rather than eating on the run which added a little more time to the trip. Then, as many times as we have made the trip between Atlanta and Virginia, we somehow missed the turnoff to highway 29 near Greensboro, NC. Granted they have changed the exit around in the last couple of years but we have made that trip several times lately. Hubby was driving but I don’t “blame” him because we all three were talking. We ended up driving to Burlington and turning around and going back almost to Greensboro to take a side road to connect us back to 29. Thank goodness for GPS!
Anyway, we spent the night at my cousin’s house, which is about an hour further than my mom and dad’s house but I had to take her some beer we had picked up for them anyway! She loves Sweetwater Beer and they don’t sell it in Virginia. When we toured the brewery when she came down in October we told them that I needed to be their Rep in Virginia! I also took some to my sister and I think she liked it too. They have a great variety but I think they both ended up liking the Sweetwater Blue the best. It takes like blueberries!
My cousin got up Saturday morning and made us a wonderful breakfast which we enjoyed out on her back deck. A wonderful start to a great day. Her sister who was also on our team also came by and before you knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head to the relay. We got there early enough to help set up the camp site. Our plan was to stay all night so we brought our sleeping bags.
The relay was held on the track behind my alma mater, Nelson County High School. I had not been on the school grounds since my 25th high school reunion 10 years ago so it brought back a lot of memories. Our youngest had gone with us and I don’t think she had ever been there. I think I’ve mentioned that where I am from is very rural and at one point during the day my youngest turned to me and said “Mom, thank you SO much for us moving back to Georgia!” That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love Virginia, she just appreciates the advantages of having a more urban upbringing than such a rural way of life.
I had the privilege of being on a team with all 3 of my sisters, my husband, my daughter and scores of cousins! Even though we were all kind of busy most of the day it did give us a chance to reconnect and spend some quality time together. I had even brought a small urn of my brother’s ashes so that we could carry him along on our walk. I know that sounds morbid but I found it to be very calming and it made me feel like even if he couldn’t win his battle with cancer, he could still be there with us literally as well as in our hearts.
Having my dad walk in the Survivors lap made my heart swell with pride. He and my sister who also had cancer were both there and even though my mom was to walk the caregiver’s lap, she wasn’t up to it physically so two of my sister’s walked it for her and carried Monte’s ashes while they walked for her. It was very touching.
My husband had told me it was his goal to walk the first 3 hours. I thought he was joking but he was serious. He ended up walking 3 hours and 19 minutes straight (51 laps) and then went back later and walked another 9 laps for a total of 60 laps which is equivalent to 15 miles!!! Our youngest walked a lot of them with him but he even wore her out. She told me she was embarrassed that she couldn’t keep up with a 55 year old! We started calling him “the one kneed wonder” because of his titanium knee. He said this was the first chance he’d gotten to really test it out. I’d say 15 miles is quite a test. I know he walked a whole lot more than I did. We planned to stay all night but by midnight his allergies had gotten so bad that his eyes were almost swollen shut. We had laid our blankets on the ground and when it started getting chilly he covered up to his chin with one of those blankets and I think that was what did him in. I felt bad that we left on the rest of them.
It was strange/coincidental that during the memory lap I was walking with my good friend Jane that I went to high school with and neither of us realized that they had a slide show going on the other side of the track and as we got to where you could see the slide show a picture of my brother, Monte, came up on the screen and then a few seconds later, a picture of my dad. I couldn’t help but start crying. About 20 seconds later, my brother’s wife, Ana called me on my cell phone. Coincidence? Kismet? Serendipity? I don’t know what to call it but it was very touching.
I know all in all it was a wonderful experience and I plan to do it again next year. Our team raised over $5,000. I got to spend quality time with my parents, all 3 of my sisters, my husband and daughter and many of my cousins and saw a lot of people I grew up with that I hadn’t seen in ages. All in all, even though it was a sad day, it was also a glorious one.