“WHATEVER YOU CALL ME, DON'T YOU DARE CALL ME A QUITTER. I will fight. I celebrate life. I can not predict the course of my cancer. I will live each day for what it is and give thanks that I got to show up. And marvel at the beauty in it all. Live in the light, not in the fear. Breathe in. Breathe out. It truly is all good.”
This was the header of Linda Casill Vogel’s blog. Words that have a value nobody can put a price tag on. LC, in the midst of her fight with one of the deadliest, most vengeful diseases known to man, stood bravely and smiled in its face. She was grateful. She was happy. She was fearless. She was a refreshing look at a world that can so easily be taken for a place filled with darkness, yet has a shine nobody can truly understand because of people like her.
Like many people in my life – thanks to two incredible parents – Linda and I built a relationship when I was too young to truly understand the kind of person she was. In fact, in her last few weeks of life, I probably learned more about her than I had in the many evenings we had spent together at the Mercer County Ultimate Disc League fields or the parties that we would mosey over to afterwards. Now, I only wish I could tell her so.
I remember her for being one of the few who would step in and separate my brothers and me from a fight. I remember her for being a force on the field, a woman who all the other women looked up to. I remember her for being a teacher, for being the kind of “girl” a 12-year old boy was willing to listen to.
This morning, when my dad called me with the news that Linda had passed, I had one of those frozen-in-this-moment-realizations in life. It was a moment where I could do nothing but consider the life Linda had led, where I could do nothing but see her path as a beginning and an end, a trail that was definitively finite. But, the moment I opened my computer, I realized that was a serious misunderstanding.
You see, Linda changed the lives of others. During her fight with cancer, she lost her liver function and kept her smile. Hoards of people would follow her blog or her facebook, praise her as inspiration and send her good energy during her fight. And, now that she is “gone” in one way, her path doesn’t truly have an end. What Linda left behind is infinite, it is forever, if in nobody else in me. She was dealt one of the worst hands someone can be dealt, but she put all her chips in and won the bet. She won because she saw a fork in the road, one between happiness and sadness, one between gratitude and complaint, one where she could rise or she could crumble. Not once did she choose the latter.
For the first time today, I had the realization that Linda and I shared the same number – 19 – on the Ultimate field. I remember the first night she came out to play after having one of her breasts removed. I remember seeing her without her hair. I remember fearing cancer as she stood in front of me the same way I feared cancer when my mom sat me down to explain why she’d be losing her hair. Yet, somehow, sharing something like our number had slipped through the cracks. Today, that number being on my back feels unworthy. Today, I realize that living life in the same aura that Linda did, with the same attitude that she held, is something every person should aspire to.
This morning was the first time I had written before noon in a long time. For me, the mornings are a place of solitude, relaxation, a moment to warm up the engine before the day begins. But, in many ways, the morning is a representation of life coming to. My new plants rest on the windowsill, taking in the rising eastern sun. The first birds chirp at the earliest light. The joggers come out to beat the traffic and their work schedules. Light floods out the darkness. Life, in many ways, comes alive.
And on this morning, as life rose around me with the sun, I took in the news of Linda’s death. How can you balance the two? The truth is that nobody knows. It is one of the great wonders of this world – how can we celebrate life in the midst of death? However, on this morning, because of Linda Casill, the answer is a little bit easier: you can celebrate life because she’d want you to. You can celebrate life because when she was here, when she had to mourn the deaths of her loved ones, she made the decision to celebrate life. To honor Linda, having a smile today is the least we can all do.
There is nowhere I’d rather be than with the MCUDL family tonight. Remember to play with a smile and a fire that could match Linda’s tonight. I’ll be thinking of you all and wishing I was at our home away from home more than ever.
At some point in one’s life, every person has taken a moment to glance at the moon. Its existence is a challenge to us earthlings. How can something so bright, shiny and mysterious just dangle in the sky –seemingly close enough to touch? Why would we be able to see it if we were not supposed to go lay our feet on its surface? Its presence is one of the most magnificent things nature has to offer. Yet, in many ways, the moon is considered a satellite – an inferior limb of earth, simply rotating with us through infinite space.
In reality, the moon is a friend we would not want to be without. Why do we look upon it with such a feeling of superiority? It takes on the sun’s shine at nearly the same time intervals as we do. Of course, it lives days and nights that we cannot conceive – evenings where the temperature drops 200 below zero, afternoons where it hits 224 degrees Fahrenheit. Its surface is rattled with craters large enough that they can be seen from earth. The craters are real, tangible evidence that the moon has absorbed and survived asteroid collisions that left welts 2,240 kilometers in diameter – nearly 1,400 miles – or the same distance from Philadelphia to Dallas. They run 8 miles deep into the moon’s core. Our own avoidance of these monstrous asteroids is nothing short of a miracle.
From the earth, a simple moment of reflection on the moon can bring a few revelations. Firstly, the moon itself is an enigma – a singular reminder that we are in a place so barren and vast that it is the only object absent from the surface of our planet whose features we can make out with the naked eye. And still, those features look different from everywhere on Earth. In the southern hemisphere, people will see a flipped version of the moon – they are literally standing upside down on our planet. Here, we are sideways, our feet glued to the ground by a thing called gravity, looking crookedly at the sun’s light reflect off of a giant rock more than 384,403 kilometers away.
Similarly, when you consider the moon’s orbit, it is impossible not to think about our own flight through space. Earth, each year, takes on an unfathomable journey with the moon by its side. Six months from today, we will be sitting in a spot in space vastly different from the one we are in now, yet it will go unnoticed. Each second, the earth travels 18 miles through space. Each day, it will travel more than 1.6 million miles through space. In the time it has taken you to read up to this point, the earth has flown so fast through the emptiness that surrounds us that it has covered the distance between San Francisco and New York City. And at each turn, each inevitable tilt and rotation, the moon has stood as our sidekick. Coldly, the man on the moon has been the Robin to our Batman.
In life, the moon is a metaphor for friendship. Its presence is largely understood, occasionally appreciated, and absolutely necessary. Happiness is seldom enjoyed alone. Could you imagine the emptiness of the night without the moon? The terror our evenings would be filled with if it and the stars did not shine in our black canopy?
And for us, this sidekick controls the Earth’s most important offering: water. The tides of our oceans – the same oceans that cover seventy percent of our planet – are sloshing and rolling and coming in and fading out with the movement of the moon. The tops of these oceans reach and split and extend themselves in an effort to follow that moon, and the force between the two is something beyond our imagination and outside the strength of man to interrupt.
Just as some of our friends act in ways we never get the opportunity to see, the moon also affects the earth in ways few people really understand. The tug of war between the moon and sun’s gravitational forces keeps the earth spinning. The north and south poles of the earth are pulled on constantly by these same gravitational forces, dictating when the earth is facing the sun and therefore dictating the seasons that determine our food supply, the temperature and even affecting the emotional state of the living beings on our planet.
Still, though, the moon has its dark side. Quite literally, the moon has a face we have never seen from our planet. It simply rotates on its axis at the exact same rate it orbits the earth, an occurrence few could honestly consider a coincidence. So, for millions and millions of years, only one half of the moon has continually faced us.
Like people, the moon has never completely revealed itself. We can make assumptions about that side, but they will never be proven true or false – it is a Pandora’s Box of questions. Even though people call it the “dark side of the moon,” the reality is that this side of the moon is illuminated the same amount of time as the side we always see. Just as it would be easy to assume a friend hides only their dark side, the truth is the place that they keep from you is truly unknown – a place that could be filled with incredible light or incredible darkness, incredible answers or incredible mystery.
Despite all the things riding against the possibility of the dark side of the moon ever showing itself, scientists do know one thing: with time, the earth’s rotation is continually slowing. The days are getting longer and like all planets, the moon and the earth will someday become tidally locked. At that point, only one side of the Earth will constantly be facing the moon. Its presence in the sky will be a rarity, a jewel held tightly by whomever or whatever is left on this planet. That friend in the sky will be truly treasured, because we will know what it’s like to lose it. So, as time tries it’s best to take away our moons, do your best to fight all those unknown forces. Grab that light in the sky and take a moment to appreciate its presence. You never know when it will fade.
To Bucher and Bender for inspiring this piece, and all the friends that continue to illuminate my sky [my best girly voice]