Relay for Life is a hope-filled celebration
This year's Relay for Life in Pairc Charman was a resounding success with thousands of people visiting the event on Saturday and Sunday.
The organisers couldn't have hoped for better conditions and in the sunshine people gathered to remember loved ones lost to cancer, honour survivors and acknowledge people currently on a cancer-related journey.
Unfortunately, it's an illness that is part of everyday life for many people but one of the things that the organisers of Relay for Life consistently say is that a diagnosis does not necessarily mean the end. In many ways Relay for Life is a yearly celebration of life, love, and the importance of living each day to its fullest.
There were some very moving and poignant moments throughout, a standout being the Candle of Hope ceremony which took place at around 10.45 p.m. on Saturday.
It was very fitting that the song 'Arms of the Angels' was performed on stage as dusk turned to dark and the relay track was outlined by the soft glow from the candles placed trackside in little bags.
The ceremony was poignant, thought-provoking and inspiring and it was brilliant to see the way it was fully embraced by everyone who was there.
The poet, Theodore Roethke was quoted from the stage and as the focus of attention was placed firmly on the candles there were very moving words expressed from onstage by Phil Brennan: 'Walking through the sea of lights, I sense unity and might; the power of passion in this place, every memory has a place; these are loved ones we have known, some still here but some are gone; in this time, in our own way, as the footsteps melt away, we see love in every flame'. Mr Brennan was accompanied by his wife, Elaine on flute, while Hayley Crosbie showcased her amazing vocal ability on the track, 'Fix You', by Coldplay.
It was a perfect choice of song for the occasion and added greatly to the solemnity of the ceremony. It provided the ideal accompaniment as people immersed themselves in their own thoughts and no doubt remembered those close to them who had passed on, never to be forgotten.
Another very thought-provoking moment came when children were invited onstage to highlight the significance of people being missed during each month of the year and at special occasions such as family gatherings and Christmas time.
What might seem like the most trivial of activities can have much greater significance when someone special isn't there anymore to participate in it.
In the centre of the relay track there was a solitary table, with a solitary candle and one could not help but be moved by the solemn dignity of the occasion.
People were invited to remember loved ones who had passed away leaving a void in the lives of those left behind.
The message of hope and unity of people fighting back was also something that was very apparent at the event and it was conveyed in a very powerful manner.
While there were some very heart-wrenching moments to the overall event throughout the weekend there was no mistaking the positive vibe emanating from the festival site.
Festival is the appropriate word to use as it had a brilliant festival feel and the numerous stalls located around the perimeter of the relay route offered visitors a very wide range of attractions from craft work, sweets and books, to tea, coffee and other light refreshments.
The organisers can feel justifiably proud of themselves for the success of the event but this was so much more than just a 'relay for life'; this was a celebration of life.