My neighbor, Mary Grace, was a woman of admirable qualities. She was, in essence, the perfect housewife – always had dinner on the table, the kids ready for soccer practice, and the house in neat order, jokingly the “Martha Stewart” of Partridge Circle. She was famous for her bakery and even had her own cake making company, one that had a top-secret recipe that no one could crack. In good weather, she could always be found outside tending to her beautiful array of flowers, herbs and plants in her garden. At the time that we were next door neighbors, she had a 10 year old daughter, Allison, a 7 year old son, a 1 year old toddler, and an extremely likable and supportive husband, Mike. They were the typical American family, always involved in activities at church, school and throughout the community. The news to come was devastating.
I clearly remember the day that my best friend, Annie, told me our neighbor had been diagnosed with cancer. I was blinded with shock, fury and confusion all at once. I did not understand how this could happen to someone who I knew so well. At the same time, I don’t think I fully accepted the news. Besides, they say “ignorance is bliss,” and it truly is much easier to ignore something so harsh rather than live day to day disturbed by it. A few months passed before the topic of her illness ever came up again, but this time, her condition had worsened. She was slowly loosing her hair and actively seeking chemo and radiation treatment. To see her in this vulnerable state was something I had a hard time acknowledging. Soon enough, she was flown to
The school year prior to Mrs. Grace’s death, I became involved with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. As the captain of the group, I got together with about 10 other students and held a car wash. Feeling motivated, the summer of I worked with the same group of students to put together several fundraisers to raise over $1000. This past year, I managed to work particularly hard to put together a benefit concert. I worked with radio stations, school administrators, pizza places and the student body to raise $1500 from the one concert alone. We ended up with a grand total of $1800 for the 2006 Relay for Life.
This life experience changed me. It opened my eyes to the reality that people are affected by events like this daily. I believe that when something like this happens, we have two choices. We can wallow in self-pity for a while and then dismiss the event from our mind, or let it fully and completely affect our heart and psyche, and channel the energy into something profound. Mary’s motto was always “celebrate life,” and I knew that’s exactly what I had to do. I decided to turn the tragedy of her death into a positive outlet for becoming involved with Relay for Life. Because of this, I am avid about giving back to the community in this way in hopes that one day, there is a cure.