Saturday, May 21, 2005

More than Words

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I work for a publishing company that is rather big on philanthropy: medical causes, educational causes, women's causes, among others. Two years ago they began a program in which our readers/ our authors submit nominations of people who are working on behalf of a cause or have started a foundation, etc. A company panel reads the letters and chooses five winners. Each winner receives $10,000 U.S. on behalf of their charity/cause and then our company has one of our better-known writers write a story, a fictionalized depiction of the person and their cause. The five stories are then published in an anthology and sold.

Yesterday, we had a company meeting; one of this year's recipients was there to talk about her cause -- Melissa's Living Legacy Foundation.

Her daughter, Melissa, who died of cancer a few years back was the inspiration for her starting a cause. This group tries to raise funds to help teens living with cancer. They recently started a web site that attracts countless teens who are looking for medical information, for support systems, for new friends.

What is astounding to learn is that teens are sort of the forgotten population when it comes to being treated for cancer. They are usually treated in pediatric hospitals or in adult hospitals. But they are neither children nor adults--their needs are different than the other two categories, and as many of them are undergoing major life/hormonal changes, it is a truly difficult time to be diagnosed or treated for cancer.

I listened to this mother, thought about her living hell with a sick daughter and the subsequent hell that has become her life since her daughter passed away. But I also thought of the good that she has done since her daughter's passing.

Yesterday morning I had a massive headache when I woke up; to sit in the audience and listen to this mother and try to hold back the tears that wanted to plummet down (yes, I meant to use that verb) my cheeks built up the pressure in my head and made my headache worse. But I knew that my headache pain was only temporary. Melissa's mother's pain is not.


I sat there and thought about young people I knew, whom I went to high school with who were stricken with cancer and didn't make it. And I thought about young people I didn't know, but knew about, who also succumbed to their cancers.

Ariel Chaim Avrech was one of those young people. He is the reason that I will be going to California -- I will be attending the second annual Ariel Chaim Avrech Yahrzeit lecture.

And from what I've learned about Ariel, I know that he left behind a living legacy of "More than Words."