First, I am so sorry for your loss. Whether recent or in the more distant past, the pain does not cease. The weight you carry every day does not become lighter. I am sorry. This is not a letter I write to you with the intention that you use up all of the available Kleenex in your home; I know you have already shed enough tears for a lifetime and that you will still shed plenty more. I am instead hoping to share a new, encouraging perspective with you.
My grandparents lost a son, my mom and uncle lost a brother and my father lost his best friend a few years before I was born. Thus, reader, I am like you: someone whose family photos will never be filled, because the gap a life leaves can never be restored. My Uncle Richard was a doctor; he healed people, and in the cruelest irony of all, illness took his life. Cancer is often sneaky, sudden, recurring and worst of all incurable. We make leaps and bounds towards treatments and cures every day, but as far as science has come there is still that much farther for science to go.
My family has a charity foundation in honor of my uncle. We hold events and donate to cancer research. This is the story I wish to share with you: the story of making a difference. I do not need to describe to you the emptiness and heartache you, your family and your friends feel, because you are living it. You do not need some stranger diminishing your personal pain by pretending they understand. I find the worst thing someone who is not mourning a cancer victim can do is say they know the pain we feel: there is no way to know the pain anyone else feels. Everyone feels a pain that is indescribable and unique to their situation. I am not going to explain the pain I see in my family members or the anger I feel towards fate (which I staunchly do not believe in at this point) to you, because you have your own unique pain. You do not need to read of any more pain, and you do not need someone else to attempt to understand your own pain. I do believe everyone, mourner or onlooker, needs to know that loss is highly personal, but the one universal thing about this loss is that you would not wish it upon your worst enemy. And that is where charity work comes in.
Every time I work for our foundation, I think of how we are working towards preventing this from happening to other families in the future. Although it is melancholy to have people come together because of our loss, it is uplifting to think that what is never-ending mourning for my family can be prevented for another family. Some day, there will be treatments for every kind of cancer— it might be the generation of my children’s children’s children, but the vicious reign of cancer will some day end. We cannot end the illness by simply mourning. Mourning is necessary, but taking action puts the tiniest bit of the power back into your hands. I encourage you to participate in some form of charity or awareness work for cancer. Action will make you feel better, but only in the way chicken soup temporarily soothes a sore throat and duct tape acts as a stand-in for anything that is broken. You will still feel the emptiness, still miss them forever and still cry at every St. Jude’s Hospital commercial that appears during the breaks of your favorite show on television. You should never stop missing your loved one, never stop thinking of them, never stop talking about them. Taking action is important, because it honors their memory in the same way the previous endeavors do. Taking action makes it so nobody else must go through what you are going though.
I am wishing you all the best, and hoping you will take action. Whether it is a bake sale, a large scale event, a 5K walk/run or a "THON" type event, I hope it brings you the same temporary peace it has brought my family to know you are giving families of the future permanent shelter from the storm of suffering.