Dianne and I had the good fortune to spend yesterday at the Relay for Life of Sherwood, Oregon. This was our fifth year of going to the Relay to photo document the event. Like the others, this Relay provided a wide range of emotions for each of us. We swung from riotous laughter to quiet thoughts to tears to absolute humility and gratitude. This Relay seemed to have many more young kids involved… infants to teens. I think that is not just a good thing… it’s a GREAT thing. And for those who generalize the character of teens (and I admit I sometimes do…shame on me) I wish you could have met the team of kids who were Relaying for a friend with lukemia. Nice kids, quick to smile and dedicated to the cause. Or perhaps you’d be impressed with the overheard statement from a teen who was realizing… perhaps for the first time… that each of the luminaria bags spread around the track represented a human being who had fought or was fighting cancer. Or you could talk to the young folks who were helping fill and distribute luminaria bags, pick up trash, or those who were just there to walk with Mom and Dad or a loved one. It’s a wonderful thing to watch and have some liberty to photograph.
We introduced our “Faces of Hope” survivor project to the Relay this year and were gratified that many survivors sat for portraits and shared their stories with us. I’m always amazed at the stories that pour out when given an opportunity. We’re hoping that “Faces of Hope” will inform and encourage many people who are fighting the fight. Time will tell but we thank each of the survivors who gave a bit of time and themselves to us yesterday. We promise to respect you in a very public way if all goes as we hope. Please stay tuned.
Each year the Luminaria Ceremony sneaks up on my heart and squeezes. Like so many others I know many who have fought cancer and I miss all of our friends who lost their battle. The Luminaria Ceremony brings our memories and emotions to the front of our being.. can’t help it. The bag pipes playing as the Relayers walk a silent lap is a powerful moment. You see people holding each other tightly. You see young kids looking at their elders with a bit of mystery about “why is Dad crying? or “why can’t Mom talk right now”? It’s a powerful moment and gives everyone participating a good shot of “this is why we Relay”. Looking down at the field from the top of the announcer’s booth I was captured by the quiet and steady movement of glow lights as people walked their lap. I did what I could to photograph the dark scene in a way that would communicate the emotions I felt. After reviewing the images I’d say I failed to do that very well. But a photo taken from the opposite side of the field shows the primary message of this year’s Relay expressed by luminaria bags placed carefully and lit to shine down on the crowd of Relayers as they walked. Yup, it’s a powerful moment. I can feel it as I type.