A light burning in their memory
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 20, 2012 1:50 AM
Fernando and Paige Molina bow their heads in prayer during the Relay for Life. Fernando is a cancer survivor.
Daniel McIntyre used to fear darkness.
It meant nightmares would find him shortly after he closed his eyes.
It meant his sister's wailing would creep through his bedroom wall and echo off the hardwood floors.
It meant death and loss -- a "hole in his heart" that could never be filled.
"Losing Mama, it hit us pretty hard," he said, taking a deep breath as a tear rolled down his face. "It took a long time to figure out a way to move on."
But as the sun set on the Wayne County Fairgrounds Friday evening, the young man embraced the black night.
He actually longed for it.
"I have only left this spot to grab some food," Daniel said, kneeling down in front of the single luminary bearing his mother's name. "Tonight isn't about me. It's about her."
The cheers of cancer survivors hadn't been heard in hours.
Members of a high school marching band had gone their separate ways.
The time had come to honor those still battling -- and those who have lost their fights -- to a disease that brings thousands of local residents to their knees for one evening each year.
It was more than just a ceremony -- a chance to light a candle for a loved one lost; a moment of unity for those committed to ensuring that the spirit of every name on the 5,000-plus luminarias lining the track lived on.
For 10-year-old Will Teague, who lost his mother, Summer, in 2010, it was another opportunity to feel her presence.
And for Frankye Watson, it was a way of standing beside her ailing sister, Bobbi Wade Padgett, even though lung cancer kept her from attending this year's main event.
"She's battling," Frankye said, looking down at the bags bearing Bobbi's picture. "And she's tryin' to win."
But Bobbi was not the only sister Frankye turned out to celebrate.
Luminarias were aglow for Johnnie McGinnis Dohman, too.
But unlike her sister, Johnnie's fight ended years ago.
"We lost her in 1990," Frankye said. "So Relay, it means a lot to us."
The event means something to Abi Montgomery, too -- even if, at 10 years old, she likely doesn't fully understand just what it means to face a deadly foe.
And 5-year-old Ginny Caldwell didn't even say the word "cancer."
She simply knows that "Mimi is sick."
But that didn't stop her from bowing her head and asking God to heal "the best grandma in the world" as her father led a prayer meant to reach the heavens.
"God does good things," the little girl said. "Mama said God can do anything."
Daniel closed his eyes before extending a lighter toward the lone candle that would, moments later, shine in his mother's memory.
"It's crazy, but after all these years, I kind of prefer the dark," he said. "Believe it or not, once the fear went away, there's been something calming about it."
Maybe, it's because these days, the nightmares that used to await him have been replaced by images of the woman who went away so long ago.
Or maybe, it's because the darkness serves as a reminder that light is on the horizon.
"I used to be afraid that I would forget her face -- her smile -- but it's just the opposite," Daniel said. "So it's safe to say my feelings about night have changed. That's when I can see her. I see her now."