I was entranced with the Stand up 2 Cancer celebrity driven fund- raising event- televised Friday night.
Tim McGraw got it just right... I'm paraphrasing his song here...
Live Like You Were Dying
"I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin' 'bout the options
And talkin' 'bout sweet time"
I asked him
"When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How's it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what'd you do?"
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying..."
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you've got eternity
To think about
What you'd do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
All day Friday auction donations continued to come to my door, and arrive in the mail. My phone lit up with messages about the benefit being held in our honor on Saturday. A dear friend, surprised me with a make over and an outfit to wear for the benefit. She actually decked me out for fall- with blingy jeans, and jewelry and shoes and a handbag and... I have tears thinking about how big Barb loves. Really big.
Saturday morning in the cool and dark depths of the laundry room, I flung myself on the floor, my heart bursting with abundance. Dear Lord, help me be able to take it all in. Keep my feet grounded, my heart humble and please let me glorify you. I poured it all out- emptying to fill again.
And then this from my Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young: "Accept each day exactly as it comes to you... on some days the demands seem far greater than your strength... Your assignment is to trust Me absolutely... I will infuse My strength into you moment by moment, giving you all you need for the day... Trust Me by relying on My empowering Presence."
We arrived at MYHA just half an hour before it started and it was buzzing with activity already. I inadvertently let go of my camera too soon, while handing it to Rick, and we watched in dismay and horror as it smashed on the ground. Its an inexpensive Canon point and shoot... but its my life line too. Hmmm, I actually feel kind of naked without it.
But Jim, Rick's Dad, graciously stepped in to shoot some photos. These are all compliments of him and of course are just a fraction of what he took. The rink is extremely hard to shoot in and I am grateful he captured the spirit of everything so well.
We didn't get photos of everyone however. There were literally so many people I would have wanted to take photos with and share with you all... I know I will overlook people inadvertently... please know, my heart is bursting and your contributions were not overlooked by me. Whether you came just to see me, or to donate a few dollars, or donate an item- or you baked my favorite brownies (Aunt Carol) it all counts equal to me. The common denominator is always love and it all carries equal measure to me.
And so it begins with my sweet friend Heather. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She is the charge nurse at the Radiation Oncology department at Roger Maris where I receive treatment. And she can now add to her list "bona-fide phenomenal benefit planner." She incorporated all of our wishes, and blended in the brilliance of many others and blew us away with the magnitude and scope of the benefit. I can only imagine the hundreds and hundreds of hours she and her whole family devoted to making this a huge success. She has our forever gratitude.
The silent auction items were staged upstairs in the lobby area of the rink and then extended all the way down one side of the rink. I am judiciously choosing a small sample of the items and tables to share.
Brenda to your left below in pink, is another one of the event organizers. Her and her husband offered up their house to collect and assemble donations and put in tireless hours of work for the benefit. Her favorite things basket inspired me to make one. She is a truly generous spirit.
Larry on your left is the legendary radio voice who announces all of our Moorhead athletics and Cobber football games and a lot of other things I will inadvertently leave out. Standing with him is my friend Carrie who also works in the Radiation Oncology department of Roger Maris. It was Carrie who scheduled my first Oncology appointments in silence and then greeted me my first day at Roger Maris with a huge hug of comfort and love. We go all the way back to high school and I don't feel like I could do any of this without her by my side.
I was so honored to see so many of my relatives. My cousin Kevin is putting skates on his son Keenen as my Aunt Marlene watches on.
Our very special surprise guests brought a crew with them. The day that I discovered my back pain was due to a bulging disc, and not cancer, within minutes of me texting a friend, Bridget Cullen was knocking on my front door having already heard the news. She burst through my front door and grabbed me in a hug filled with relief and joy for me. We chatted briefly and then she said "Oh, and by the way, Matt and I are for sure coming to your benefit." That Cullen family sure knows how to take my breath away.
The photo below is almost all of the Cullen Crew.
So all night long at the benefit everyone would ask me- Have you seen Matt yet? I hadn't. I met Matt's mom Nancy, I talked with Bridget several times, but Matt was signing autographs, and talking with people every time our paths would be about to cross...
Matt's Dad Terry, with Rick and I.
Our friend Mark with Terry- two hockey legends in their own right.
Grandpa Terry with two of his grandsons. On your left is Wyatt who was celebrating his birthday and just turned 4 that day. Happy Birthday Wyatt! Thanks for sharing your birthday with me!
It was kid nirvana with Games Galore offering 3 bounce games and a dunk tank...
Could he be any more excited?
Finally, as I spy Matt out of the corner of my eye, someone grabs me and says its time for the live auction. What? How did 4 hours just fly by already? The auctioneer did an amazing job, and graciously volunteered his time for us.
The crowd gathered... and then...
I felt arms go around me... and there he was. As Matt and I talked I tried to will every ounce of gratitude I felt towards him to leap from me and cling to him somehow. I murmur thank you a few times and he says, of course and shrugs like its no big deal. "So much of this is Bridget," he says, and I know this is true. But I tell him its Bridget plus Matt... its both of them together.
And I think back to the song... love deeper, speak sweeter... what did you do with it?
Well the Cullens give- thats what they do with it. They give of their most precious resources- their time- their love- their hearts to others. And they unite all of us in that circle of love.
Minutes later, Superman is asked to help the auctioneer with a description of the final "package" offered by Matt and Bridget. Its tickets to a Wild game, and then a meet and greet with Matt afterwards, and then a tour of the locker room. And then there is dinner for 4, and an overnight stay at The St. Paul Hotel. Rick can tell you that even his press credentials don't yield a locker room tour.
But then Matt leans in and whispers that he'd like to "sweeten" the pot a little. He'll throw in an autographed stick. And oh, so will Mikko Koivo, and oh, so will Zach Parise.
What? I see people visibly shake their heads- which hockey loving fan wouldn't want to do all of that? The bidding closes with an extemely generous amount being given for the package and I am on the verge of tears... again. And then I feel everyone tapping me on my shoulder and pointing at Rick as he looks at me. And tells me he loves me. And I am undone.
And thank goodness my friend Shane below, grabs my hand and hugs me, because he knows. He too had his life changed in a blink of an eye and had his community of Bemidji come out and support him. He knows the depth of love we feel amidst the gritty in our lives.
My cousin Pam also came out to see us and her husband Scott on the far right. Keenen is a huge Matt Cullen fan so he was pretty pleased with his night.
But the night wasn't over yet. The band Catalyst was just getting started. And while none of us had heard of them? We all agreed we'd go hear them play again sometime- they had a great sound- and were beyond generous in donating their playing for the night. So we danced and sang while the kids bounced and played.
I was on about my last breath here... I was running on sheer adrenaline and a little diet coke- which I rarely have. Our family owes Joel and his wife Amber more than we could possibly ever repay. Joel trains Nolan off ice, and has literally helped Nolan transform his body. He is lean and solid and quick. And FP3 and Joel are responsible for those results. If you want to play hockey and get results, FP3, I'm just saying... Matt would tell you the same thing.
This is my girlie Anne- she is my heart friend through and through. We're neighbors, but so much more really. She got Burger King to donate over 80 percent of the food. Yes- that was a lot of food!! She worked her tail off in making so many things come together. Where would I be without my Anne?
A benefit on the surface is about raising money. But far greater? Are the connections we make with each other. I was so honored with how many people shared a bit of their story with me. Whether its a cancer story, or a chronic illness story, or a hard times story, they are meant to be shared and used to connect us, lift us, encourage us- unite us. Thats what benefits do.
Tim Mcgraw had some pretty profound words in his song Live Like you were Dying...
Somewhere lodged firmly in my heart is a simple thought. All shall be well. I have no earthly idea if I'll ever be healed of cancer this side of heaven. But I am blessed beyond measure.
And I know I will live out my life answering the question "What did you do with it?"
I'm loving bigger
I'm speaking sweeter...
I'm just getting started...
How about you?