Pink carnations

We are all so cocooned in our own lives – enveloped by our own joys and sorrows – that sometimes it is easy to forget that we aren’t in this world alone.

But then an event like the DragonBoat Festival comes along on a cold grey Summer morning, when breast cancer survivors and families/ friends of those who have lost their lives to breast cancer, take to the water in solidarity against a disease that has taken so many.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in 2015:

  • 68 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day,
  • 14 Canadian women will die from breast cancer every day, and
  • 220 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer of which 60 will die from it.

The statistics tell the story. But the one worth remembering was etched on every face that grouped around the Swy-a-lana lagoon this morning.

I stood on the edge of the lagoon at noon today with my pink carnation in my hand and blinked back tears as breast cancer survivors waved their own pink carnation above their heads. As they gracefully threw the long stemmed flower into the silver water – baby pink against steel grey – more than one hand strayed to a cheek on its way back down to wipe away a tear.

Surrounded by a crowd of strangers, my own solitude just rolled away.

But the poignancy of the Carnation ceremony was just one part of the day. There was the strength with which the rowers sang and danced after the races, determined to live life with every breath. The military precision of the Navy’s Dragonbeat team from Victoria marching down the cobblestoned path on their way to the Paddlers tents. The Vikings in their horned helmets and tunics. And a senior, a breast cancer survivor, dressed in white satin with angel wings and a halo.

So in the words of Shania Twain, to whose voice we placed our pink carnations in the water of life this morning:

She’s not just a pretty face
She’s got everything it takes
She’s mother of the human race
She’s not just a pretty face”.