The coffee finally waking me up from my first real life Relay, as a member of the Team Committee and was going to say my most moving Relay, but that’s not entirely true. Nothing as moving as one’s first Relay, especially if that Relay in a place, like Second Life.
We’ve joked and had serious talks about what makes RFLofSL so unique. The perfect weather, no bugs and mosquitoes, private kitchen and rest room steps away from the keyboard, with the “walk and talks” and never miss a beat, all the tools we have at our disposal, thanks to the like of the tech division and communications within Second Life groups IMs and notices, and just the endless creativeness of the grid, there are no real limits. As a newbie, pretty hard to have a more moving experience than a Relay For Life of Second Life, Relay.
But last night’s real life Relay For Life in a place called Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, I had my second most moving Relay.
Started by arriving 4 hours early to help set up, get everyone registered with the event kits and t-shirts, distributed to all the captains. With just over 70 teams to process with finalizing all their teams roster, funds raised, score cards tallies and goodies distributed, is one labor intensive process the virtual side doesn’t have. But it was amazing to meet all the captains face to face, after all the correspondence we’ve had.
Opening ceremony and survivors laps were delicious with everything I’ve come to know. I was struck by the fact our Relay was large enough, to field a full track of survivors and caregivers. I was a beautiful celebration in yellow. I kick myself for forgetting to take pictures, as I was too busy cheering and applauding all the survivors as they took the first lap. I was really was caught up in the moment.
Several busy hours later we arrive at the Luminaria Ceremony time, which for all of us, the roughest. We gather at the stage and are presented with a 40 person choir. They were amazing, wish I could share what they sang. They move off stage revealing the Empty Table Ceremony. This gets me excited, as I presented this ceremony to the committee during the planning stage; and they loved it. I gathered crowd loved it too, judging by their silence afterwards. After a thoughtful silence, the word is given to begin lighting the luminaries and the start of my longest hour.
Here is also a marked difference from the virtual of that in the virtual Relay, you know where you placed every single luminaria. I real life, with advanced luminaria sales, these were placed alphabetically around the track, intermixed with those of the team campsite. With my 19 advanced placed luminaries, I knew I had a lot of wandering to do. The first one I find, is in honor of my dad, I lose it. After a bit, I gather myself up and continue my quest, with a vague remembrance of all the people on my list. The lighting process begins with 15 minutes to give everyone a chance to find and light theirs; afterwards everyone fans out to light the remaining. I managed to get to about half of mine and a good number of the dearest ones, on both online and real side on my life, before the torch was past, to lit them all. I remember feeling sadden I could not get to all of them and rejoiced someone was caringly tending to them. VR never had that.
Over the next long while, well beyond the remaining of the Luminaria hour, I so slowly walk along that inside edge of the track, going around and around the track, from a to z, a to z, a to z, luminaria bags so numerous, they are right next to each other, in an endless procession. They are all there. Mothers, fathers, wife, husband, sons, daughter, uncles, aunts and grandparents, colleagues, lifelong friends and those that touch our lives, but for a brief moment; and never leave.
Sigh of relief, I find all of mine carefully tended to, but not surprised, I haven’t seen an unlit one in quite some time. After about the third or fourth lap on the inside track, I realized I was one of a group of people, circling the track, doing the Luminaria shuffle. Silently advancing, bit by bit, reading and reading, the outpouring of love, all mindful of each other, while the walkers are pacing their laps further out. After a bit, I find myself on that divide between the Luminaria shuffle lane and the walkers coming at me, just looking at all their faces. Right there, I could see it in their eyes that quiet connection of the soul.
After a good number of laps with the walkers, I now find myself resting in tent, now no longer needed for Relay, alone with my thoughts and the cold. My thought wandered all over my Relay experience, Second Life, InWorldz, committee, captain, support and countless levels of volunteers roles, virtual Relay, organic Relay, American Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, my indoctrination into the Relay, the representation of the day cycle of a Relay event, from daylight of health, through the darkenss of cancer and it’s treatment into the dawn of a new day of remission.
Last night’s Relay, I got cold. Far colder than the weather man predicted. We even had a light rain for a little bit in the wee hours, to add to the misery, when I realize how the unpredictable nature of weather, is the perfect symbolism, for all the unknowns and unpredictable nature of a cancer treatment. I never would have gotten that in the virtual Relay either.
I defy the cold, wind and dampness, and walk some more.