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Relay For Life hits close to home

Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 11:20 a.m. CDT

Friday’s Jasper County Relay for Life event was pretty emotional for me. As many of you know, I lost my mother a few years ago to cancer. Seeing her luminary and those of others folks who didn’t make it, talking with survivors and other people whose lives were affected by cancer, it got to me.

It put me in a reflective mood, and I looked at something that I haven’t seen since I read it out loud. I opened up the eulogy I read and wrote for my mother’s home-going service in 2011.

I started writing that eulogy on the floor of a hospice in Kansas, three days before my mother actually passed. At this point in time, she couldn’t speak and communicated through gestures to my family and the staff. Eventually, even those stopped.

The outcome of her passing was expected, and I wanted to write it while I could still look at her face and smile.

“The past year of my life has been one of the most harrowing of my 24 years on this earth. It seems that for every obstacle I ascended from, another one knocked me down a peg. The reason I have prospered through these challenges is that I know no matter what, I always had somebody in my corner.  A person that has been watching my back and protecting me, before I even set foot upon this earth.”

That was my opener, and from there I shared stories about past experiences and just the thoughts that went through my mind at that point in my life.

“As many difficult situations as I’ve experienced, nothing could prepare me to plan my own mother’s funeral at 24 years old. I still haven’t finished school yet and I’ve given her no grandkids. I sure would have loved the gift baskets they would have gotten on every major occasion. I also haven’t found a bride, who I’m sure wouldn’t have been good enough for Myra J’s baby.”

I was in a pretty dark place in my life at that time. Although I still haven’t provided any grandbabies, I’m hopeful providing excellent news coverage to the more than 30,000 citizens of Jasper County counts and that my lady, the Daily News, is an adequate mate.

“For the rest of my life, I will never be able to look at zebra print, go to a dollar store, hear the word “diva” or see a decorating show without thinking of her. From the time of her diagnosis down to the end, my mama put up the best fight she could, but every battle isn’t meant to be won here on earth.”

Those wondering how my obsession with Dollar Tree started, that last passage should solve that mystery.

“It’s so crazy to me how somebody such as my mama, who was so full of life, can be gone so early. I mean, this is the woman who gave me a nickname I don’t like just to mess with me, who had me selling gift baskets at school and on the streets with her, even after I moved out her house. Yet, she is sitting here lying still right in front of me.”

My mother was obsessed with gift baskets. She once had a small stand at a mall in Kansas City, and my very first job was as a delivery boy and assistant sales rep for her. The business was primarily run out of our various homes throughout the year. I started when I was 5 years old, and my mother obviously didn’t care for child labor laws.

The next passage, I thanked her whole support team for all they had done and talked about just how sickening and destructive cancer is. That set me up for my closer:

“I just want to finish by saying I love you mama, and I promise you I will finish school. I got too many eyes looking at me from up there and too many kids looking up to me down here to not to get it done.”

I walked across the stage at UMKC in December 2012, 23 months after saying those words aloud to a church full of witnesses.

In my opinion, I think I’m setting a great example for all of my younger cousins and relatives. I do work that is impactful, informative and makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

Cancer robbed me of someone great and robbed her of the chance to see her baby get out of his rut and ascend. But it did teach me one thing:

With the proper motivation, hard work and perseverance can pay off.

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