Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Melissa's Story


Melissa Betrand Knights (baseball cap) with her children

After a loved one dies, we try to find ways to stay connected to them even though they are no longer physically with us.
Our memories of being with that person or just of the person by themselves is a strong tie that can never be broken.  Sometimes we save a piece of clothing they wore or some everyday item that brings great meaning to us.  Being in a particular place, smelling a scent or hearing a song can bring those strong memories back to us without any notice but sometimes that is not enough.
We want to honor the deceased person and what their lives meant to us.  We can't control loss in our lives but we can create memorials that enable our loved ones to live on in our hearts and help us to heal and move forward.
Memorials can include something as big and as public as an annual award, a large charitable donation in the deceased person's name or a webpage or website set up in the person's name.  If that doesn't feel appropriate, a memorial can also be something small and personal such as a garden or a special scrapbook.

Or you could organize a walk/run event to honor, remember and support those in your community who have been touched by cancer.

This is what the Knights and Kaderli families of upstate New York have been doing for 24 years since a member of each of their families lost their fight with cancer.  The families organize their communities every year and raise money to give to families who are having financial problems while a loved one undergoes cancer treatment.

The following essay is beautifully written by Melissa Knights Betrand and was recently published in her local newspaper, The Daily News of Buffalo, NY.  Melissa is the sister of a colleague of mine, Aaron Knights, and I wanted to share their inspirational efforts to highlight how two families, in the midst of tragedy, found a positive and powerful way to remember their loved ones who had battled and sadly lost to the demon disease of cancer.

Here is Melissa's story:

Essay: Cancer fundraiser continues to inspire
By Melissa Knights Bertrand | Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2012 3:30 am 
I could see the gray light of dawn peek through my bedroom shades as I lie awake listening to the skies open up and give way to steady rain. I knew the day would be beautiful, though. Logistically, rain might change the turnout a bit, but the gathering would still be perfect. It was Oct. 6 and, as if on cue, my daily tear-off calendar read “Bring people together.” That was exactly the plan for the day, just as it had been on the first Saturday of October for 23 years.

Oct. 6 marked the 24th anniversary of the Richard Knights – Sue Kaderli Walk/Run. A day when two families, together with the community, unite to walk/run the gorgeous country roads of Orleans County to honor, support and remember those whose lives have been touched by cancer. It is a day of smiles and stories, familiar faces and fun. All the money raised this day is given to financially burdened cancer patients who reside within the county.

The Richard Knights – Sue Kaderli Memorial Fund was founded in memory of my dad, who lost his battle with cancer when he was only 38 years old, and the mother of our dear friends, the Kaderli Family. Our collective loss has driven us to carry out the mission of providing financial assistance to those struggling to make ends meet while undergoing cancer treatment. This charity continues to grow beyond our expectations and seems to have taken on a life of its own; with numerous third-party fundraisers hosted by families we have had the humble privilege of helping over the years.

Each year, I look forward to this day like no other and am touched beyond words when I hear stories of the ripple effects our assistance has had on so many lives. It strikes me as I look out over the crowd, that none of us knows the day-to-day struggles we each endure. Suffering, in many different forms, surrounds us every day. On this day though, we all feel a little more supported and connected to each other as we gather for the greater good. There is something magically healing about that. Perhaps this is our real mission. Wouldn’t all of our lives be that much better if we slowed down each day and made the smallest effort to connect in this same way?

This work has ignited a passion in me that has spilled over into nearly everything I do, not the least of which is my mothering. As much as it breaks my heart that my children will never know what a hilarious, beautiful soul their grandfather was, I love that this is how they know him. To them, this is his legacy. They are aware of the compassion and hope our charity provides and witness the relief and support it lends to those who need it. There is no way I could teach them these things with words, they must be experienced to be fully understood. For this, I am so grateful and fortunate.

After setting up the evening before our event, my daughter asked from the back seat, “Mommy, if your dad was alive would we still do this?” I paused, then replied quietly, “Probably not.” At that moment, for the first time ever, I wondered not what life would be like if my dad had lived, but how the lives of so many would be different if it were not for his death and the blessings the Richard Knights – Sue Kaderli Memorial Fund has brought to us all. Maybe this is what peace feels like after tragedy, when goodness and grace transcend grief and sorrow, though I’m still not sure. What I do know is that our mission has helped fill the hole left behind by tremendous loss, given immeasurably back to our families and, most importantly, allowed those living with cancer the chance to focus on getting well.

In her book “The Happiness Project,” author Gretchen Rubin writes “we expect heroic virtue to look flashy, but ordinary life is full of opportunities for worthy, if inconspicuous, virtue.” What a joy it is to be surrounded by virtue and the heroes of this amazing small community!


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