A flame for every story
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 17, 2014 10:37 PM
Tracy Keene, right, lights a candle for Sue Hill that will be placed in a luminaria during Relay for Life Friday night at the Wayne County Fairgrounds. Keene lost her father to skin cancer and and Hill is a six-year skin cancer survivor.
He rode in on the back of an evening breeze -- the man who, nearly a decade ago, left behind a wife and daughter who have, ever since, longed to hear the tall tales he was know for telling during Sunday dinners and summer fishing trips.
He stirred the tent tops scattered across the Wayne County Fairgrounds and made the flames burning inside a pair of luminarias dance moments after candles were lit in his honor.
"Did you feel it?" Aubry Baker-Scott said, "rubbing down" the chills that had, moments earlier, popped up along her forearms. "Did you feel it, Mama?"
Her mother, Mary, wiped a tear from her eye.
"I felt it, baby girl," she said in a whisper. "There's Daddy."
In a way, the women are always searching for Eddie.
They find him in his grandson's face -- how the little boy's eyes favor the man they lost long before he was born.
They see him in the waves that crash along Atlantic Beach -- his favorite place to cast a line.
But both Aubry and Mary acknowledge that something special seems to happen each time they go to Relay for Life.
Eddie, they say, shows himself.
"It's hard to explain, but it always happens right about this time," Mary said, pausing to wipe her face on Aubry's sleeve. "Something in the wind or the rain or whatever is going on just speaks to me."
The woman begins to weep.
"It's OK, Mama," Aubry said, wiping away tears with one hand while she rubs her mother's back with the other. "I feel him, too."
They took different forms -- the luminaria tributes that lit up the fairgrounds shortly after the sun set on the county's annual stand against cancer.
But each, those who placed them seemed to agree, told a story that, while unique to the person represented in them, exemplified, in their own way, the courage, love and hope they say defined their particular survivor or loved one lost.
Candace Walker used glowsticks instead of candles to honor her best friend, Bethany.
"Candles burn out, but this glow stick will last all night," she said. "If I could find something that would stay lit up forever, I would use it, because that's how long I will love 'Annie.'"
Trent Cooper prefers the fire.
"It's kinda funny, but I just kind of stand above it and just watch the flame moving," he said, looking down into a tribute he purchased in honor of his grandfather, Steve. "When I'm staring down in there, it's like everything around me is gone. A kind of peace takes me over."
The young man's mother, Eleanor, smiled.
"Pop's proud you're here," she said, sliding her arm around her only child. "He's looking down. He sure is."
Across the track, Aubry and Mary said a prayer and shared an embrace.
They had decided to call it a night -- to leave that luminaria aglow as they headed to the parking lot.
"I don't like to watch it go out," Aubry said. "It's hard."
But even as they packed their car, the women made it clear that their 2014 Relay experience was far from over -- that their annual ritual was only partially over.
"Now's the fun part," Mary said. "Now we have a glass of wine and a meal on the back porch and tell all Daddy's tales. Our bellies are gonna be achin' until midnight."