Archive for Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sharing stories of survival

June 16, 2011

We are all survivors. At one time or another something impacts our lives: a death, an illness, job loss, a move across country away from family and friends that leaves us spinning in a dustbowl with no way out.

If we are blessed, as we are in this community, with the ability to endure such threats to our stability, even our sanity, we are graced with people who stand for us, beside us, and with us through it all.

I thought about this recently, sitting in my slingback, KU canvas chair at the first community band concert of the year. It was a memorial concert for the founder of the band, who recently made a quick stage right, leaving his audience waiting for the encore.

Many sat stunned and grieving at the news of his passing.

What was more striking than his death was the momentous outpouring of support and celebration of his life. The opening of the concert was dedicated to his memory; the final moments, however, when his wife and family, who attended the concert, came forward to be honored, were stellar.

It was in those moments that I felt we rose to our highest and best character, as she did in appearing there so recent in her grief. I couldn’t help but think to myself what a fine and noble people we can be. How the life of one man can so touch a community.

More than that, I watched and listened to those who stood to remember and celebrate his life, like Ray Bailey, a clergyman whom I have known and respected since I was a student at Bethany Medical Center, giving his heartfelt and tearful prayer. Is there any better tribute to one we have loved and will miss than to say I knew him and pray for his eternal rest?

It is a journey we will all make one day. Before we do, we may be confronted with many challenges. Clausie Smith knows about challenges, and he knows what it takes to be a survivor. He knows and will teach others.

We gathered Friday night, those who have survived cancer, those who have walked beside us, those who walk for us still. We walked with courage, we walked with grace.

We walked surrounded by those whom Kathleen Norris calls “our cloud of witnesses.” Those who have gone before and those who will come after us remind us that however and whenever we walk, we do not walk alone. We are together in this, whatever your challenge.

A young student said to me after my first survivor walk, one of the hardest walks of my life, “I am here.” Shoulder to shoulder we walk this journey with grace, as one.

I am here. You are here. Let us walk forward together in the ultimate Relay For Life.


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