Dreaded disease touches all

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

I happened upon a most remarkable scene Saturday. Members of the United Methodist Church of Luverne were gathered at the corner of South Forest Ave. and West Fifth Street with a small number of the group standing in the middle of the road having the time of their life to save someone else's.

Buckets in hand, they were fighting the good fight, collecting money for the never ending battle against cancer.

It was the perfect day for it. Cars and trucks were making that steady southward trek to the beaches of Florida.

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Ellen Solomon, who started this annual event for the church's Relay for Life fundraising effort, said the participants had collected $1,177 for the fight against cancer by lunch, a good days work for a good cause.

Because I don't get many nice photo opportunities right outside my front door, I took pictures (see front) and handed Miss Solomon a wrinkled dollar bill when I was finished. I wish it had been more, but recently I have found that with the rising gas costs my pockets are in a perpetual state of emptiness. I used to get agitated when gas hit $1.40. Now, I pray for the days of $1.65.

I genuinely hope that the high price of gasoline doesn't affect donations this year. I couldn't tell you how many cars stopped and gave but I do know that at times Highway 331 South seemed like one long train with no caboose. If people have the money for fun and sun, they should have the money to give.

And cancer is something that touches us all.

My grandmother died because of it seven years ago. I arrived at the hospital to late to say goodbye, watching as my mother and aunt closed her eyes for the last time.

What do I remember about this woman who was a part of my life for some 20-plus years?

That she had never been too busy for hugs. That she made sure each grandchild - our numbers magnificent – had a gift from her at Christmas. That she cooked Southern fried chicken in a cast iron pan for Sunday dinner and cut her own grass with a riding lawn mower until she was physically not able to do so.

We were there for the holidays, life's wonderful interruptions. There was Christmas with late evening fireworks. There was Thanksgiving with backyard football game. There was Easter, the children like bunnies, bouncing across my grandmother's yard, rummaging through the bushes for plastic and dyed eggs.

My grandmother even managed a trip to the beach with my mother and two aunts before her death. They said she beguiled them with her skill at dominoes. At my house, there’s a photograph of my grandmother standing alone in the condominium's parking lot, a white beach and blue ocean in the background. She’s wearing a dress and carrying her purse, as if she were only taking a walk to the country church she attended her entire life.

I see her somewhere else now. She’s sitting on a porch, having her cup of coffee as morning breaks over a group of clouds and Heaven goes on forever. There’s my grandfather beside her, having a cup himself.

&uot;One day,&uot; I can imagine them saying together, thinking of a time when there will be more plates around the table, more Easter egg hunts and a thousand Christmas trees that never grow old. More laughter. More love. More children and grandchildren then they know what to do with.

For that day I live this day.

I hope you do so as well.

– For my grandmother, Ivis Blackburn, who died from cancer in 1998.