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Last weekend I was invited to speak at the Luminaria service for Relay for Life in South El Monte. This was my fourth time to speak at a Relay. I admit it is my least favorite venue. Not because I don’t support what they are doing, but because it strips my heart raw to talk about losing my dad to cancer.

The following is what I shared that night. Someday I will sit down with my writer hat and tighten it up and craft words and transitions to flow better…but then again, maybe I won’t. Maybe it is best left in its raw and unedited state.

Me & First Boy during Luminaria at Relay for Life, South El Monte

Me & First Boy during Luminaria at Relay for Life, South El Monte

Hello. My name is Laura Krämer and I am a wife, mom, sister, friend…and tonight I am a daughter—my dad’s daughter.

My dad lived a healthy and active life. In 2012 he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer. He died 6 weeks later—the day after Father’s Day. He was 69.

And you know what?—Cancer sucks. Grief is hard. And living life without a loved one is painful. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Can I be honest with you?

I don’t want to be here tonight.

I really don’t. I don’t want to be a part of this Relay for Life. I don’t want to be a part of the “I lost my loved one to cancer” club. I just don’t. Sometimes grief is just too hard. And with anniversary of my dad’s death and Father’s Day just around the corner—all this is overwhelming and extremely painful.

Grief is personal—yet healing comes when we share our grief with another.

You know what I want to do right now?

I want to find a quiet place with two comfy chairs; one for me—and one for you.

I want to sip tea as you drink your comfort beverage—and I want to hear your story…

And I want to share mine.

I want to tell you all the things I miss about my dad. I want to tell you how hard it is to not hear his voice and feel his arm pull me into his side. I want to tell you how I miss watching him delight over my boys and I miss the treats he would bring for them. I want to tell you how I miss eating popcorn and watching movies with him and how a Starbucks run is never the same without getting him his café latte.

And I want you to tell me about your loved one. I want to hear all the things you miss and the memories you shared together. I want to hear the places you’ve traveled and the milestones you celebrated. I want to hear the way you keep their memory alive—and I want to hear how you choose life each day in spite of it all.

I want us to describe that scene—the scene when we first heard the diagnosis. I want us to fumble over our words through tears as we attempt to describe how our heart swelled till it almost burst and our stomachs nearly gave out. I want to look into your eyes when you tell me about your loved one’s last moments, last words, and last breaths. And I want to reach across the table and hold your hand tight—because I know the pain.

And once we’ve dried our tears and caught our breath—I want to dare to be even more vulnerable with you.

I want to tell you I’ve been running in fear from cancer. I want to tell you how fear makes my head spin when all I read in my news feed and news reports conclude everything causes cancer. And I want to tell you I’m afraid cancer will catch me or someone else dear to me. And I want you to lean in closer, take my hand, look me straight in the eye and say,

“Friend, living in fear is no way to live.”

And through your own tears and story, I want you to tell me there is hope—and I want to believe it.

As our time together ends and we part ways I believe our hearts will feel lighter, fuller, and better for sharing our stories.

And this is what the journey is all about—sharing and grieving together.

And this is what I know:

You and I—we need each other.

We need to remind each other a valuable truth.

And that is this:

We are not alone.

We are never alone.

Not in our experience. Not in our journey. Not in grief.

We were never meant to live this life alone. Whether it is fighting for a cure or grieving our loved one. Please know you are not alone. We have each other to link arms and walk this journey together. And we have the God of heaven above to empower us with Hope.

Our loved ones have gone on—we can’t change that. But please remember, they still live on inside of us.

Tonight the track is filled with lights to remember the light our loved ones left in this world—in our world. Let’s look to these lights as symbols of hope and life.

Let’s choose to live life—together.

~

Thank you Sharon Garkow, Erick Escamilla, and the students of South El Monte High School for inviting me to share my heart. You are incredible people doing incredible work to bring us closer to a cancer free world.

Thank you also to Cynthia, a reader just like you, who reminded me in a powerful way I Am Not Alone. Thank you.

Let’s choose life {together}
Laura

 

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