So I went to the Relay for Life Cancer Walk last night as an assignment for my newspaper. I already wrote a story previewing it earlier this week. My only assignment was to take photos. In fact, my editor told me I didn't even have to go. But something compelled me. My pizza job boss let me have the night off to go take pictures. Don't ask me why I felt I had to go, I would've made more money delivering pizza. But I went. I went determined, for what I didn't know.
The walk was at the Topsail High School Track about 30 miles from my house. There were probably 800 people there. I forgot my press pass. Which wasn't a big problem. No one stopped me from being there. The reason I hated leaving my pass was that it looks weird for a grown man without a press pass to be taking photos of kids he doesn't know. And you think being a woman is hard! Ha! You can photograph and play with all the kids you want and nobody glares at you.
As I took pics of the Cancer Walk. I noticed a tent for a team of walkers named "Walking For Julie." There were dozens of other teams with names and tents, but something told me to get a story from them. I ignored whatever was telling me that. Besides, I wasn't supposed to get a story, I was just supposed to take pictures. I continued walking around the track and taking pictures.
Then I passed the "Walking For Julie" tent again. And something told me to get their story. I ignored whatever was telling me that again and I continued walking around the track taking pictures.
I passed the tent a third time and all the same shit happened. Voice spoke. I ignored. Then ended up back there again.
After the fourth time in front of "Walking for Julie's" tent. I said in my head to the voice: "Fine. I'll get the damn story. I didn't even bring a notepad. I'll have to record the interview into my phone!"
I went up to one girl and an older lady that looked like they were the head of the group. I said, "Hi, I'm a newspaper reporter. Can I ask you about your team?" They said "sure."
I first asked them if they had purchased one of the luminaria bags that had just been lit up along the track in honor of cancer victims and survivors. The girl said, "Yes. We have one for Julie."
Me: Is Julie here?
Girl: Julie was supposed to be here.
Me: What happened?
Girl: She died Monday. She had lung cancer. She was 34. She was from Burgaw.
Me: My Pokey Pants lost her mother Monday to Breast Cancer. She was 54. She was also from Burgaw.
Girl: This is Julie's daughter. She's three.
Me: Can I photograph you guys with the luminaria bag lit up with Julie's name on it?
Girl: Sure, we'll have little Alyssa hold it.-----------------------------------------------------
I took three pictures of them for the paper. Two were great. Then I interviewed Julie's sister.
She was young, blond, and hurt. She spoke into my phone for about two minutes during the interview, then her voice cracked and I could hear too much sad in her. I'm a reporter. But I'm still a person. I cut it short and her eyes thanked me. She had already given me enough. Then as I walked by the little girl who was obviously too young know just how dead her mother was, I walked in the direction of Julie's husband, Bubba. I know that name sounds made up. It's not. Bubba was a big country boy. And his eyes were defeated. I politely asked him a question I knew the answer to. I said, "Do you want to add anything about your wife to the story."
He said, "What's there to say. It's not a matter of if it gets you. It's when it gets you. I think she already said all there is to say."
I don't know what Bubba meant, but I think I knew exactly what he meant to mean.
I was going to stick around and take pictures of the 9 o'clock ceromony, but I already had enough.
I went home and waited for Pokey Pants to come over. When she walked in, I felt compelled to show her my photos and play her my interview from my assignment at the Cancer Walk.
This was weird because Pokey shows almost zero interest in my radio or newspaper careers. She reads nothing I write, and she hears me only by accident on the radio. So I never share my work with her, because it hurts to see her not really care. It's almost the only thing annoys me about her. Anyway, last night I felt compelled to share with her my work.
She saw the photo of the two women and the little girl on Team Julie. Pokey said, "That little girl, Iknow her. Is her dad a big country boy?"
"I know them. Her mom was my mom's next door neighbor at the hospital. She went in the same day as Mom. She was a young girl. She had lung cancer. How's she doing?"
Me: "She died. On Monday."
Pokey Pants: "Mom died on Monday. They went in the same day and died the same day?"
Me: "And there both from little old Burgaw."
I still don't know what to make of this. Why was I compelled to approach Team Julie? Why was I compelled to tell Pokey about it? What am I supposed to do with this?
A few hours ago, I produced a morning show for a preacher in this town. During commercial, I told him what I just told you. I said, "I don't know what to make of it? I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it."
He said, "I don't know, either. Maybe, you're not supposed to know, yet. But you're off to a good start. You are willing to recognize it, whatever it was. It wasn't a coincidence. You know you were supposed to talk to them. Just take it from there, and don't try to force what you're supposed to do with it. If you're supposed to know, you'll know."
He's right. And I don't know.