Monday, May 24, 2010

Celebration of Life

My daughter, until one week ago, worked in the social work department for oncology at Beth Israel Hospital.  Each year there is an incredible day long event put on by the department for cancer survivors and their families.   It includes a breakfast, workshops of all kinds and a beautiful lunch under a big tent.  Hundreds of patients and families, doctors, nurses, social workers and other support staff attend.   This is truly an awe-inspiring occasion.  And it's a very emotional one with plenty of joy to it and many tears, as well. The passion and compassion of the hospital folks is amazing.   Patients and families inspire huge admiration for their courage and stamina.  The entire day is infused with triumph and hope.

I attended my third Celebration yesterday with my daughter.  We registered and checked out the raffle and silent auction items.  Booksmith donates a big basket of books and other goodies.  I noticed another basket of books,  donated by a group of nurses.  In the complimentary tote bag given to each attendee were books - one a photo essay of breast cancer patients, a pamphlet of writings of patients, families and docs/nurses, a notepad and pen, and a booklet listing the days events.   The written word in one form or another is a balm.  And it connects us, one to the other.

The luncheon includes a keynote speaker, this year a fine, bestselling author who is now a cancer survivor.  His talk was all one could wish - earnest, funny, engaging,  inspiring.  But the most incredible part, for me, is the panel of five or so patients who speak of their experience.  Some are survivors of some years, some are in second or third battles with the disease.  They are young and not so young.  They are multi-ethnic men and women.  They are not polished speakers.  But their stories are riveting.
There is much applause and cheering for them.

It was a Celebration of Life, indeed, made up of stories, shared orally or in writing.  Traveling the few miles from the bookstore where I work surrounded by stories to this event so rich in stories, I realize yet again the proximity and importance of stories in all our lives all the time.  Where would we all be without them?   

So I realize I've used the words stories and inspiring many times in this post.  I could try to mix it up with other versions of those words, but really, they are the best words for this story.

No comments: