My friend D has ovarian cancer. She has for a while, and she will until we can band together and figure out how to rid society of the Big C scourge once and for all. D is, as she and everybody who knows her will tell you, a warrior, and though there are a few uninvited and most unwelcome cancerous specks lurking within her, they don’t govern her, so they are just along for the ride.
On Saturday night she hosted, with her family and with the help of many of her dear friends, the 3rd FU Cancer MusicFest, a night to raise money and celebrate what matters, friendships and love.*
I could describe Saturday night to you, but that’s sort of like trying to describe a dream to a passerby. I might be able to capture shards of sound and snapshots of the spectacle of the night, but the meaning of it all is lost in the telling. I’ve been trying to assemble and arrange my collection of shards and snapshots into a facsimile of what it felt like to be there, surrounded by people I have known since I was six and people I had met just four minutes earlier, listening to music in the rain, eating great food in a welcoming and even elegant setting.
But how can I convey to you just how much fun it was to sit with Jamie, my “boyfriend” from 5th grade, and relive the Van Morrison concert we went to together in 1992 at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I am still talking about this days later due in no small part to the fact that my 5th grade boyfriend feels a little bit like he could be my cousin, if my cousin were also my next door neighbor if my next door neighbor was freaking hilarious and had as few filters as I do, and with whom I resumed conversation maybe even mid-sentence even though I haven’t seen him since about a month after the Van Morrison concert at the Greek (about which I remember little except that I laughed through the entire thing).
I don’t think I could do justice to how great it is to know that Johnny C., whose little brother happens to be really good friends with my little brother since before time began, lives in Hawaii and is the captain of a dive boat and spends his days taking people out into the ocean to see the wonders of the deep. On his days off, he goes diving. On vacations, he goes diving. The other day he swam with a whale shark. He loves night dives and feeding Manta Rays. My husband was so happy for him he looked as though he’d quit his own job and was spending his days swimming in the sea in paradise himself.
Another childhood friend’s husband, bartender for the night with the aforementioned husband, walked away from his lucrative and respectable career earlier this year, walked into a brewery and asked if he could volunteer in exchange for learning about making beer. “Why volunteer?” they asked, “when you could work here instead?” And so he does.
Late in the night, as D’s three sons and her husband prepared to play and sing for her on the stage they and their friends had built, she took the mike and thanked everybody for coming and sharing in the celebration with her. They played and they sang and we danced and we cheered.
And it was beautiful and good. And even though my friend, the warrior, says thank you in ways that you didn’t even know thank you could be said, does she know? When she stands on that stage built by the hands of the beloved** and looks out at us, does she see? Does she see that she’s brought us all together to do something so important?
It’s not raising money. It’s not telling her we love her. It’s not showing her that she is stronger than cancer. It’s not making sure her boys know that they are forever surrounded and lifted up and held tight. It’s just this: we were actually living the lives we were meant to live. Who we are, who we are meant to be.
*bonus, raised thousands of dollars for the Sandy Rollman Foundation and For Pete’s Sake, formerly known as Crossing the Finishing Line, which I’ve written about before, even though Aunt Becky didn’t reward me for it.
**extra points if you can spot TWGH.