Eastern Wake: Opinion

Column: Fun in the midst of serious business

The cast of the Pirates of the CURE-i-bbean Relay for Life team’s womanless pageant gathered last Sunday to start practicing for the show that is planned for next Saturday – January 24 – at the Wendell Community Center.

I won’t spill the beans here about what the audience will see that night, but suffice it to say there will be plenty of fun and those who attend will leave thinking they got a steal for the $5 price of admission.

Despite the fun the event will bring, it’s hard for me to forget the seriousness of the cause the pageant supports.

The pageant is one of many fundraisers that will go on all over the region to raise money for the East Wake Relay for Life. That money, of course, supports the American Cancer Society. The money is used in many, many ways, from funding research to providing cancer victims with services and support.

Cancer has burned two images in my brain that will never leave me. One is an image of my daughter leaning against a fence at Northwood High School in Pittsboro during a Relay for Life event there just a few months after her grandmother – my mother – died from cancer. Pitt was only four at the time and, though she was young, she knew cancer had taken her grandmother and she knew the Relay was an event aimed at finding a cure for cancer. I looked at her, leaning against that chainlink fence and watched as tears started falling down her face. That hurt me. Today, when I ask her about her grandmother, she says she doesn’t remember much about her. That hurts me even more.

The other image is of a high school friend, Jeannie Bierce, who was 35 when she died of cancer. Like most of the friends I had in high school, I’d lost touch with her when we went our separate ways after graduation. Jeannie was two people in one. Kind, sweet and ever gracious at school, but a beast on the basketball court.

Our paths crossed a few years later when I was asked to referee an alumni game pitting East Wake alumni against current players. Jeannie had gone on to play basketball at Peace and, later, Campbell. The alumni had their ringer.

During one inbounds play, she made it clear to me that she wanted me to give her the ball more quickly so she could get the play started. It was a glorified pick-up game, but Jeannie was intense, nonetheless. I suspect that intensity helped her tremendously in her fight with cancer. Jeannie was good at everything she did, whether it was her schoolwork, her athletics or dealing with people.

I know God has a plan for every one of us, but I can’t help but think people don’t need to die at 35. Especially good people like Jeannie.

So, if you go to the pageant on Saturday, have a good time. But in the back of your mind, imagine my daughter leaning against that fence crying over her loss. Imagine the wholesome goodness of a person like Jeannie whose life was cut way too short by cancer. Then you’ll understand why six grown men would make fools of themselves and hundreds more will pour thousands of man hours into the Relay effort.