An Open Letter To The Organizers of Relay For Life

Yesterday I participated in Relay For Life for the second year in a row and it was one of the most cathartic experiences I’ve ever had.

In 2005, my maternal grandmother passed away from cancer and I cried…maybe three times. Don’t get me wrong, I was devastated, it felt like my whole world was breaking down but I couldn’t physically manifest what I was feeling. It happened in the middle of the school year and my mother ran to her side in Mexico while I was left behind, unable to say goodbye to one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known. She never knew this, but I resented my mother for many years because she decided to leave me behind, her reason being that she hadn’t wanted me to miss school. When mom called the house one day in November to let us know, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I remember crying that night in the comfort of my own room where no one else would see or hear me but after that I couldn’t anymore. The only other times I cried afterwards were in December around Christmas time when I found my mom in her room, crying because she always called grandma to see how she was doing and if she needed anything for the massive nativity scene she set up in her living room every year. I cried with her not just because I was sad but because my heart broke for her when she said that she was alone in the world now since she’d been estranged from her father since he’d left their family. The last time I remember crying over her the February following her passing because she would have been a year older instead of the age that she would stay forever.

I’d secretly resented my sisters whenever they brought up memories they had of her or they brought out photos they had with her because I’d never get to make more memories with her. I was 12 years old when it happened, she wouldn’t make it to my 15th birthday party like she had for both of my sisters, she wouldn’t be there when I graduated high school, there were so many milestone moments that she’d shared with my sisters that she would never share with me,

Last night during the opening ceremony, I started to think about her again and how far I’ve gotten in life since she passed. I wondered if she would be proud of the women that I’ve become and of the things that I’ve achieved in the almost 11 years that she’s been gone. I’m not the most religious person, despite being raised in a catholic family and attending a catholic university but during the prayer led by Sister Mary, I said my own prayer for her, telling her that I still missed her even if I never looked the part. During Dr. Mangione’s speech I started to tear up but no tears fell, when the luminarias were being lit I let the first few tears fall because I knew somewhere around the track someone was holding the one I’d dedicated to her, waiting to be lit up. When the slideshow played, I pictured the photo I have of her carrying me at 2 years old. For the first time in a long time I really cried over her memory and it felt great. As we took our first lap around the track I let the tears continue to fall as I held hands with my sorority sisters. I finally let go of all the pent up feelings I’d bottled up over the years with an ugly cry face that could rival Kim Kardashian’s.

Every year for Relay, we set out to beat our previous fundraising record and this year was no different. We set a new record to beat next year by raising $140,341.76. Every single dollar that I donated towards that amount and every dollar that I will continue to donate every year will be in the name of my grandmother so that hopefully no doctor will ever have to utter the words “You have cancer”, giving all the grandmother and grandfathers of the world the longest time possible to create memories with their grandchildren.

So to the organizers of Relay for Life at St. John’s, thank you, not only for giving me a way to make peace with my grief but for also giving me a worthy cause to relay around (pun intended).