Yesterday I was cleaning out my documents folder on my computer and came across an old post I never published that was written at the end of my sophomore year. It is clearly a little outdated, but I decided to still post it for a couple reasons. First, it's always nice to see how far I have come, how different things are after time and distance. And second because it highlights the beginning of my time with Colleges Against Cancer and how much I hoped it would add to my life. Little did I know that the impact CAC had on my life, would be far greater than anything I could have imagined...and Relay isn't even here yet.
I hate, hate, hate flying. Sitting still for hours on end, being suspended in the air and not really sure what is keeping us from crashing, mixed with the people sitting way to close to me and reclining their chairs so their heads are practically in my lap all add up to be a recipe for disaster for me. I spend the majority of the time I fly praying the rosary and hoping we don’t crash (paranoia problems) or trying to drown out my discomfort with some loud country music. My only hope most flights are that I am so exhausted that I just pass out. Today’s flight unfortunately (or fortunately I guess, depends on how you look at it) was not one of those days.
As much as flying and heights in general make me nervous, there is something so beautiful about being high above the clouds. I love the moment when the plane ascends just high enough that the city below completely disappears into a blanket of clouds. I remember when I was a little girl I used to think that being in the clouds meant you were in heaven, I guess a part of my 20 year old self still really wishes that were true. How great would it be if we were able to just make a quick trip to heaven every now and then? Naturally in my post finals exhaustion and slight delirium this is what I was thinking about 10,000 feet above.
In the past year and a half, I have been looking for ways to feel closer to my lost loved ones, wrestling between moving on and still holding onto memories close. I’ve found it’s a really difficult balance to find. You want so badly to forget sometimes, but then on those really good days you have, there’s always that small part of you that feels bad for being happy without them. And then you just feel ridiculous because eventually you are going to have to find a way to enjoy life again, and before you know it you are in this unending cycle of sadness, happiness, guilt, frustration and so on. Lately my days are easier to get through. My first thought every morning isn’t, “when can I go back to bed.” Smiles and laughter are more genuine, and I’ve really started to love my life again. But I am still constantly looking for something to bring me closer to heaven, closer to those I’ve lost, and closer to the person that I want to be because I was privileged to have them in my life. I want so desperately for my seven-year-old self to be right, and that heaven is a simple plane ride away.
When I lost my second classmate to cancer, my first thought was that I officially knew more people that have died from this disease than have survived it, and that was a really sad moment for me. I had watched my sister get so involved in Relay for Life and I really wanted to believe in the cause as much as she did. Alyson lived and breathed by the American Cancer Society for so long, I wanted that passion and complete faith she had in a cure. Even as I walked in Relay for Life, the selfish and really broken side of me couldn’t wholeheartedly believe that one day this disease would be eradicated like so many had hoped for. That all changed this year when I heard the student speakers at Relay for Life 2013. Students that I had seen walking around campus, living lives completely normally had been battling this unknown battle with family and friends suffering from this disease, and I had no idea. It was an extremely sobering moment for me, one that snapped me out of my self-centered sadness and made me realize that even though my friends died, so many others survived and even if they didn’t, those they left behind were still okay. Life moves on even when we don’t want it to, and in the cancer world, we have the American Cancer Society to thank for a lot of that. I don’t want to sound cliché and say that night changed my life, but it did change a lot of my views on the way I was dealing with things, and it did contribute a lot to my lighter spirits and happiness today.
The American Cancer Society and Marquette’s Colleges Against Cancer have provided me with my newest project and what I am really hoping is my way to grow closer to heaven. As of the beginning of May I have been elected to CAC’s 2013-2014 E-Board and I will be helping in planning Relay for Life 2014. I could not feel more blessed or be more excited about this opportunity. I know that this event means a lot to so many people, and I am thrilled to be playing a bigger role in it this upcoming year. I want nothing more than to honor the lives of my friends in a way that I know will help other people. Already I have been welcomed into the CAC family, a group of people who believe in this cure and cause as much as I do for their own personal reasons. I may have lost my friends, but I find so much comfort in their memory and through other people who are working so hard to fight back against cancer and everything it has taken away from everyone.
I am continuing to look out over my blanket of clouds and unfortunately am not met with the sight of my beautiful angels that I know are watching over me. I may not be able to take a plane ride to heaven to visit, but I know their memories, their spirit, and their love is with me, always. I know that through volunteering and helping the American Cancer Society I will be able to focus my sadness in a constructive way that will hopefully help so that less people feel the need to grow closer to heaven next year. I know that the short time that I had with my lost friends was for a reason. I know that something more is going to come from that, and I know that I am a better person because I knew them. Right now I just need to focus on what I do know because in a world of uncertainty it is really difficult to find meaning and reason. I know Colleges Against Cancer Exec is a really big step in the right direction though, and I could not be happier to join this family.
“but maybe the miracle was even getting one moment with you” –Taylor Swift “Ronan”