When I was elected senior class president, I didn’t realize it would be a lifelong responsibility.
As my friend and classmate Chris Mori Fayad, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago, grew weaker in a New York hospital, I felt an urge to tell our classmates. The e-mail addresses I collected for our 40th reunion almost three years ago to the day made it easy for me to send out the word that our dear friend was dying.
The response was exactly what I should have expected from this small group of extraordinary women.
Like 38 candles they burn brightly all across the country. From Boulder, Colo., Marie wrote that she was diagnosed with breast cancer just last month but she was summoning all her energy and love for Chris; from Irving, Texas, Rose tried calling Chris hoping her voice would be a comfort; Janet also called from San Pedro and left a poignant but uplifting good-bye message; Anne flew from Sacramento to New York to stay with Chris in the hospital last week. In San Francisco and Seattle, prayers were offered up, and here in Crescent City, I stepped up to be the person who relayed the messages from Chris’s family via her blog to my classmates and from them back to Chris.
On Saturday morning, after a Friday night “celebration” with family, friends, a folk dancing group and a choir, Chris’s husband Vince wrote from Chris’s hospital room: “I spoke with Chris this morning and she was very ‘peaceful.’ She wants everyone to know how much she loves them, but she also wants everyone to ‘let her go.’ You can come and say, ‘good bye.’ Do not linger, it is only making it harder for you and her.”
Weeks ago I signed up to participate in my first Relay For Life on Saturday. Chris was not the only reason I decided to walk this year—there’s Becca, Kathy and now Marie from my class and classmate Jane’s husband Peter and Janet’s husband Vince all fighting battles against cancer. And there are my friends the survivors: the two Susans here in Crescent City as well as Karen and Terri. I wanted to honor them as well as my mom who died of breast cancer five weeks after being diagnosed in 1989.
On Thursday I found out my kids were coming for the weekend. It would have been easy to skip the Relay to spend one of the warmest days of our summer with them, but instead my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter joined me. Rick walked too when he wasn’t taking photos.
Just before I left home for the high school, I took a black marker and wrote on the back of my shirt: “Walking for Chris Mori + MMHS Class of ’68.”
I can’t explain the feeling as I walked under blue skies with my beautiful family while that morning’s message from Chris’s husband resonated in my head. I felt so lucky and yet painfully sad as life and death met on the field.
I will continue to walk for as long as I can, and I encourage you to join me next year. The only thing that could make our local Relay For Life better would be more people in attendance, more tents around the track and more steps toward the cure.