I’m a very messy crier. To be honest, I usually try to contain myself at emotional functions such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals so that I won’t embarrass my family. But sometimes I just can’t control myself. This past Friday, I was reminded of one of the most poignant times in my life.
As a member of the National Honor Society at Bishop England High School, I attended the Relay for Life last week. This nationwide, annual event’s purpose is to raise money for the research that is funded by the American Cancer Society. Participants sell luminary bags, which are displayed at the Relay for Life in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of those lost to cancer. At 10 p.m., the luminaries that line the Relay for Life track are lit. They provide a path that reminds participants of the millions of people who have struggled in their battle with cancer and the desperate need for a team effort to find a cure.
In my mind, the lighting ceremony symbolized the dedication of so many people to the beauty of life. It was emblematic of a community of people working toward a common, optimistic goal. Only once before in my life had I ever felt the same way.
My family and I attended the funeral of my fourth-grade teacher last winter. Mrs. Vrbanac was a woman that had touched the lives of many. Sadly, she died of breast cancer after a long struggle with the disease. Her battle was fought by everyone that knew her; it was a true community effort. There were carwashes, donations, and even a spaghetti dinner to provide support and tribute.
The funeral demonstrated the community’s participation in Mrs. Vrbanac’s life and their sorrow in her death. As a Catholic school teacher, she influenced both students and parents alike. I hadn’t realized how many people this amounted to until I saw the masses that attended her funeral. I knew that she had made a huge impact on my spiritual and emotional development, but I didn’t appreciate how many other people were touched in the same way. It wasn’t only me, I thought; it was everyone with whom she came into contact.
Seeing all those people really humbled me. It made me realize how fortunate I was to have been blessed by her presence in my life and how regarded my teacher was in our community. I remember looking at the funeral procession and hearing the somber voices of those gathered. I remember thinking about the sacrifices that this woman had made for me and for so many others. I remember crying and not caring how messy I was being, because I knew that everyone around me was feeling the same way.
In this Easter season we celebrate the joy of life and the grace of God. Through the mystery of the resurrection, we believe that life extends even after death. We have faith that our time on this earth is a preparation for the eternal life that we will share with God in heaven. The relay brought this message to me in full force last week. I realized, as I had at my teacher’s funeral, the ephemeral qualities of our earthly life and the importance of making each day count.
Kathleen Carr is a junior at Bishop England High School and is editor of the student newspaper there.