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Moses Lake Roundup's Pink Ceremony

August 25, 2016

I was walking hand-in-hand with London behind the rodeo arena.

Photo by Roseanna Sales

 

"Do you understand what tonight was about? Why all these people are wearing pink, and we let all those balloons fly away into the sky?"

 

"It was all for you, Mama."

 

 

Perspective.

 

We had participated in the Moses Lake Roundup's "Are You Tough Enough to Wear Pink?" night, along with other families touched by breast cancer and volunteers from the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation.

Photo by Roseanna Sales

Photo by Roseanna Sales

Photo by Roseanna Sales

 

As we walked away from the trucks, we left behind trails of curling ribbon. Earlier in the evening, each ribbon anchored a balloon. Every shade of pink....

....And we cut them all free.

 

One by one. Each a symbol. Of an angel perhaps...a wife or mother lost. Or a promise of hope...a sister or aunt courageously fighting. It's perspective. And each of us has our own.

 

Jason caught some of ours on video to share with you:

 

Someday when we look at the pictures from this night at the Rodeo, I'll tell my kids about the other brave women. Mary and Kathy currently battling breast cancer...

Mary, Photo by Roseanna Sales

Kathy with her Family

 

 

...Of Phyllis, a ten year survivor.

 

Phyllis, Photo by Roseanna Sales

 

 

Someday I'll tell my kids about my Grandma Hamill, who, like me, faced breast cancer in her thirties, pregnant with her third child. She went on to raise her three sons and meet grandchildren and even great-grandchildren before losing her life to cancer.

 

 

Someday I'll tell them about my Grandma Pryor, who lived, quite spryly, into her nineties...and taught me the pleasure of fresh seared tomatoes on whole grain toast. I lost my Freshmen 15 (*ahem* 30) eating toast with tomatoes one summer. Grandma went into the hospital believing she would walk back out again, but her lungs were filled with terminal cancer. Just weeks after her death I discovered I was pregnant with the twins. Mom says Grandma always wanted twins.

 

Someday they'll hear Jason's family tell stories of Aunt Liz, who was kind beyond measure and gracefully fought against ovarian cancer for years before the trial chemotherapy sustaining her was discontinued, on account of low profit margin.

 

That night, as we let the balloons free into the hot evening sky, I thought of my online IBC group. Especially other young moms, changing diapers and wiping noses and tying shoes and cutting crusts until their last breath...which came years, years, too soon.

 

I thought of Anne. 

Of Kelly.

Of Ashleigh...who dreamt about throwing a huge party when her son turned five, only to die before his first birthday.

 

In the stands, I noticed a young woman crying as we cut the balloons. Not a gee-this-sure-is-touching cry...an I've-lost-someone-who-mattered-to-me cry. And it occurred to me that I have an obligation to her. To her, and anyone else who has ever lost a sister/daughter/mother/friend/wife to cancer. I have an obligation to live my life.

 

Not just wake up, but show up.

 

I was overcome. As I watched the sky fill with pink balloons, my heart became helium-light.

Photo by Roseanna Sales

 

I'm alive. I'm mostly healthy today. I love my family and they love me back.

 

As I handed Eli balloons to release, I couldn't help but kiss his grubby face. I watched my daughters giggle and squeal as the pink orbs left their hands.

 

To mourn a life gone is also to admit the gift of being alive. And so the night's memorial also became my private celebration.

Of my life. 

Of my family.

After all, it's a matter of perspective.

 

 

You can read about Ashleigh's story, including her dream, on the blog she started before her death, My Journey with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I recommend having the tissues handy.

 

You can learn more about the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation here, donate to them here, or get involved here. During my eight months of chemo, they supported us through regular phone calls to check in, gas cards, and gift cards to Walmart for protein shakes and other essentials.

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