Relay utilized my energy and angst | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Relay utilized my energy and angst

Susan Wood

My father Larry’s spirit was in the air over the weekend.

Since bladder cancer took his life last September, I had been seeking a place to channel my energy and angst. The South Shore’s first Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society was only fitting – as a volunteer and participant. I had gone to them before and so was aware of the emotional catharsis.

It didn’t take long to feel his presence. My Dad always loved the bagpipes. The Black Bear Pipe Band played as I came up on the Kahle Community Park grounds with my sister, niece and mother, who came from three different cities in Oregon to take part in the relay.



It was the first time my mother had left her house on a trip since he died, explaining that when she’s in the home he built for her she feels “his arms wrapped around her.” They were mates and companions for 52 years.

I’ve had so many signs of my father’s presence since he died. Being an outdoorsman, the swaying of the trees in Tahoe stops me in my tracks. Josh Groban’s song “You Raise Me Up” – played during my father’s burial – can give me shivers just working in the back yard.



But it was difficult to ignore the signs when my family created luminary bags to honor him at a ceremony known as relay’s main attraction. Hundreds of these candle-lit bags with personal messages to those who have died and others fighting the fight could bring even the most hard-edged person to tears.

I brought a photograph of my Dad pitching horseshoes in his last days in Gold Beach, Ore., telling him about the bagpipes.

That wasn’t my family’s only brush with a heart-filled connection.

“You are my sunshine,” my mother wrote on the luminary bag. Later that evening, entertainer Carolyn Dolan, a 5-year breast cancer survivor herself, performed that song. My Mom burst into tears.

“It’s been so long that I’ve cried. It’s overwhelming. It’s the spirit of this place,” she said. She’s been keeping herself busy, praying and grieving when she feels up to it.

My sister, Sandy, made a luminary bag for my brother, who couldn’t attend. She drew a deer and wrote that he will be missed in the woods every year. My brother and father had an annual hunting ritual.

Being an avid Christian, my niece Jennica drew a cross and declared “No more pain, no more tears. You may rest now in peace, grandpa.”

Prayer was sprinkled throughout the relay ceremony. That and music characterized the kind of love and melancholy I’m convinced would stop strife in the world. And at the rate cancer spreads, I think we need all the help we can get.


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