Sunday, June 19, 2011

Relay for Life 2011

Last year I watched the Relay for Life from my backyard and was inspired to write a poem that I shared here.  The event is happening as I write this and earlier I decided to walk over to the park with my daughter and hand out a few copies of the poem, I suppose in gratitude for all they do.  I looked around for the main tent for the event and was being shown who to speak with when a woman walked up and asked, "You're the poet, you wrote that?".  At first I wasn't sure we were talking about the same thing.  How did she know about the poem the I had just walked over to share?  Because I posted it here, she found it and they had planned to read it at the luminaria ceremony.  They asked if I would read it and I almost chickened out, to tell you the truth.  But then I said I would do it and I'm so glad I did.  It was wonderful to offer support and gratitude in that way and a great experience. 

So!  In honor of that wonderful annual Ypsilanti event (and all the others) and every person walking around the park behind my house right now and every person sleeping there because they've walked themselves tired, and everyone involved in, supported by, remembered by, and blessed by that event, I'd like to re-post that poem.

Just Before Midnight

Amid the song of a soulful night bird
and the scent of a damp, happy willow
across the sound of the Huron gliding by
I watch

On a path encircling the park
surrounded by luminaria
they walk

They walk for their family,
their friends, themselves
for memory and the chance of anticipation,
for dreams cut short and those made possible

The path beneath their feet,
on any other day like any other path
is, for this time, a sacred space of healing and unity
it's a circle of community
of shared grief and triumph
of support and understanding
of true empathy

This walk is for warriors
these are people who live life up-close
and with eyes wide open
because they know how fleeting a gift this is
and how graciously given

These are warriors of grace and vulnerability
who know what it means to love ferociously
the strength that takes, and that which it gives
They have come here through moments
of intense contemplation, through new
rearranged priorities, with changed
worldviews, and open hearts

They bring colorful tents and coolers
are served midnight pizza
have music to move them along
but my favorite is the laughter-
that audible evidence of joy
shared one to another

These warriors come here as
humanity at its best
they come to do for others
to raise awareness and give voice to the silent
to celebrate life, having learned what that really means

They come with faith in themselves
and in one another
because they know they can make a difference
and they do.


  1. Melissa, How wonderful! i"m glad you didn't chicken out, run away, or otherwise hide your light under a bushel basket. I'm glad you joined in your community and became present, stood up, stood out in all your beauty and spoke what was in your heart for others to hear and witness your faithfulness in yourself. You, too, make a difference. You do! Love and light!

  2. Thank you. It was such an honor to be able to share in that way!

  3. Wow, how poignant. Beautifully written, this speaks volumes.

  4. Thank you! I write so much self-reflective (narcissistic) poetry. It's so nice to write for others. Having had cancer in my family and in my body, I really appreciate those who spend their own time and energy working for a cure.