Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 29, 2002

"Candles in the wind"

The luminaries lining the stadium track glowed in the dark. The moon shone brightly overhead. Although there had been predictions for rain on Saturday, the night turned out to be perfect for Relay for Life, Manhattan's annual fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society.

One of the luminaries was for my Dad, who turned 83 earlier this week. Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago this fall, and he is currently fighting what is probably a form of blood or bone cancer, among other ailments.

I feel helpless as I watch Dad get weaker and Mom get worn out from caring for him. Mom insists that she is still able to take care of Dad's daily needs such as helping him get bathed and dressed, fixing his meals, administering his medications - including daily shots of insulin, and getting him to the bathroom. I sit with Dad when Mom goes out to do errands and I try to help in other ways, but it doesn't seem like enough.

I hate to admit it, but it scares and saddens me to see the ones who put Band-Aids on our scraped knees, enveloped us with love and protected us from life's troubles not able to protect themselves or the rest of us from the inevitable.

I tell myself that I should feel lucky that I've had my parents as long as I have - and I do feel lucky. Mom and Dad have had a good life. They have three children who love them dearly and grandchildren who adore them. They each have siblings with whom they maintain close contact. In their younger days, they traveled to the East and West coasts and many places in between. They even visited Costa Rica and Bolivia. They had rewarding careers - Mom in teaching and Dad in farming.

They instilled in us love of family, compassion for others and a belief that hard work and a good attitude go a long way in determining success.

So why do I feel so agitated, so sad lately? I guess it's human nature. When we have something good, we don't want to let it go.

It's like the luminaries around the track. Their light was so beautiful, so mesmerizing, so comforting that those of us in attendance didn't want them to go out.

Yet we realize that in the end, we are all "candles in the wind." What we can hope is that the light we provide while we are here will somehow illuminate the lives of those around us.

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