All hell broke loose
that peaceful Sunday morn.
Tangible and real,
the world had trapped a gentle soul in its walled cruelty.
Dying flowers, failing gasps, piercing odors of bleach,
it was a jail cell.
But Iris had come.
The beautiful goddess of saffron-colored wings flew by Room 815
here, to collect the graces
here, to unburden a crippling life
here, to liberate the agonizing pain
And like that of the Lady Dido of Carthage in the myths
she too has been released.
A butterfly in the light, a dove in the sky, a deafening silence.
Afterwards, we ate Filipino food to pinch ourselves back to reality -
it was all real.
It was also my aunt’s birthday.
I couldn’t distinguish between the tears and water that whirl-pooled down the shower drain. I was crying that Saturday morning. Relay for Life was that afternoon and it was my trigger.
I was excited for Relay but it made me remember everything. I remembered the life being sucked out from my mother’s body. I remembered the morphine turning her into a completely different and unfamiliar person. I remembered the pain, the trauma, and the tears. To think that my mom died three years ago still gets to me. I don’t think the weight that always falls on me whenever I think of my mom will go away. It should never, anyways.
I guess I cried in part because I realized that I’m finally facing this fact. The very fact that I have always tried to avoid for the past three years. The fact that there is a bigger community out there affected by cancer and are standing strong and are fighting back against it. Since my mom died I have always thought that it was just me versus cancer – that no one else experienced or is experiencing what I had to go through. But perhaps it is a normal reaction – the “you-against-the-world” feeling – and it just took me three years to open up and acknowledge that I am one of the thousands.
Before going to BU’s Track and Tennis Center, where the overnight event was held, my roommates and I all drew ribbons on the back of our hands. I had my mom and they had their grandparents and other relatives to honor and remember. I drew a green ribbon for liver cancer.
Among all the events at Relay, the Luminaria got to me – hit me right in my psyche. The Luminaria is the probably the most grave and melancholic part of the event. I was filming Relay the entire time for a video assignment; running from one part of the stadium to another to get interviews and b-roll footage. However, during this part, when the coordinators shut the lights and asked us to walk the Lap of Remembrance, I had to turn the camera off. Even though the Luminaria would have been the most significant and touching part of my video, I ended up not filming it. My reasoning behind this was that it was the only time in the 12-hour gathering that I had a personal and peaceful moment with my mom, as did everyone else with their loved ones. The lap was a moment for me to remember her, to honor her and to celebrate her. I walked the lap linking arms with my friends, but I hoped to believe my mom walked it with me too. I cried the entire way. The tears were not of pain or of hurt, but they were more of remembrance and of missing someone. Although I may have broken an important rule in journalistic storytelling, I felt it was just the right thing to do.
The event was at all times overwhelming, humbling and comforting to me. And of course fun. It was this very community I needed after all. I realized that I was never alone. Over 1300 people, all affected by cancer in some way, participated in the all-nighter to celebrate, remember and fight back. I was finally part of this community, and hearing many stories, all unique but all similar at the same time, made me smile. We walked the laps and we played the games and we stayed awake all night long. I was genuinely happy that night.
Painting the sky with morning hues, the sun was rising when we left to go home after Relay. With Relay in mind, that sunrise did not only mean another day for me, but it meant great hope that one day, in honor of my mom and the others who have lost their fights against cancer, the monster will be conquered. Any day now.