June 30, 2009 | 27 comments

Unbroken Love-Circle
of lights in paper sacks, quarter-mile long.
Unbroken Hope-Circle
of those who survived
and those yet grieving

I showed up at 10 p.m., slipping in late to pick up my daughter Lydia. On the south end of the football field, under the goalposts, Lydia had come to celebrate a friend’s eighth birthday at our county’s Relay for Life.

The birthday girl, Lindsey, could have taken her first-grade friends to Chuck E. Cheese. Or she could have had a picnic in the park. She could have made a haul on Webkinz and Hannah Montana trinkets, stuffed into tissue-filled gift bags. But, no, she chose to come here on a Friday night, where candlelit bags flickered with hope.

No gifts, please, she said. Give to the American Cancer Society instead.

Lindsey is a healthy girl. Never had cancer. She just thought it was the right thing to do.

“Instead of getting presents, I wanted to help people,” she said.

Team Lindsey raised more than $1,400 that night.

I slipped in to this circle of hope about two hours before the party ended. I walked past hundreds of luminaries.

In honor of …
In memory of …
In honor of …
In memory of …

I walking alongside my friend Al, who is a survivor. I stopped to say hi to my friend, Brendan, a teenager diagnosed last year. He was this year’s “honorary survivor” and delivered a moving speech:

“Even though I seemed to be surrounded by cancer, I never thought I’d get it,” he told the crowd. “I mean, this doesn’t happen to 15- or 16-year-olds. And even if it did, I’d never get it. I kind of had an invincibility thing going on. Then one day I felt a lump.”

Bag by bag, as I walked along the track, the lump in my throat grew. White paper bags bore the names of friends, a neighbor, someone in church. Some surviving; others gone.

And then this. This stopped me:

A lit bag in memory of my father-in-law, from my husband to his dad. … Paul died in January after a year-long battle with leukemia.

Who of us has been untouched by cancer?

In the US, cancer accounts for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

Who of us has been untouched by the courage of those diagnosed?

Here, in this circle, hope prevailed — hope for those surviving, Eternal Hope for those gone, and hope that cancer will one day be eliminated.

(I penned this poem in response to Hope, at the invitation of L.L.’s writing prompt: “I slipped in …” This is part of Random Acts of Poetry.)

Ring of Hope

Round they went and
Round again
Marking time
… and I slipped in.

Unbroken ring
encircling light
Flickering jewels
against the night.

Axis spins
our life again
when, undetected,
“it” slips in.

Unwelcome guest
in flesh disguise
finds home within,
then multiplies.

Round they go
and round again
Chemo, scalpel,
Hope slips in.

Unbroken ring of
I slipped in …
to pray tonight.


The poem is part of L.L.’s poem prompt and part of Random Acts of Poetry

by | June 30, 2009 | 27 comments


  1. Wendy

    Such a moving post & what a girl you have!!! I'm dealing with a loved one with cancer right now (actually make that two, but one is a very long story).

    I loved those bags of light.
    ~ Wendy

  2. L.L. Barkat

    Jen, that poem. Wow. Just soaking in the sounds, rhythms, wonder of it.

  3. Lyla Lindquist

    You … teach me to see.

    Just thought you should know.

  4. Joye @ The Joyeful Journey

    That poem was just beautiful, Jennifer!

    It moved with a rhythm of love and I am just in awe.

    As I always am when I visit here : )

  5. mom2six

    Always touched, always moved when I come here.

  6. Monica


  7. valerie lynn

    How wonderful and blessed you are to have such a big hearted daughter who cares so much about others. Wow, she is truly one inspirational young lady. The poem was beautiful my friend. Tears came to my eyes.

    God bless and I love you so!

  8. RCUBEs

    What an inspiration coming from a young birthday girl who sacrificed her own celebration by giving her time for others who are in need!
    Cancer is an ugly disease, one of the illnesses from this fallen world. Thanks be to God for the hope and love He brings, while we are here and beyond.
    Beautiful poem.God bless.

  9. Denise

    Just this week a dear friend lost her mother to lung cancer. We all are affected some way by its pain.

    The poem was an eloquent dance of words and thought. I am glad that I "slipped in" here tonight.


  10. Angie

    Oh my, what unity, love, and unending hope pictured here.

    Just last week I had a skin cancer removed from my scalp. Me, with the olive skin complexion. I wasn't supposed to be affected by that! Seems no one is immune, yet we all have hope. Praise Him!

  11. Deb

    You so beautifully conveyed that emotion. Hope. What we all need.

    I agree with Wendy: "what a girl you have!"

    And what wonderful parents this little girl has.

  12. Jennifer

    Beautiful poem. Praise God that we have hope to overcome! Thanks for sharing this blessing with us.

  13. Laura

    Oh, Jen.

    Now that is living.


  14. Alleluiabelle

    My Dear Friend,

    This post is truly amazing. I lost my dear grandmother to cancer, my dad in 1999 to a rare illness treated like cancer and presently my husband's aunt is in stage 4 cancer. This touches me deeply. What precious young ladies these two girls are in raising money for this cause…and you my friend, your poem so deeply "slips in" to my heart leaving a hope in Him that will always abound above all things.

    Love you,

  15. Billy Coffey

    One day I hope to see life through the same eyes and heart as yours, Jennifer. That was amazing.

  16. Deb

    You asked for my E-mail address.

    [email protected]

    Look forward to hearing from you.


  17. Beth E.

    What a beautiful poem…what a touching post…what a memorable night.


  18. elaine @ peace for the journey

    As I type this, I'm in the midst of saying good-bye to a close friend. In the past year, I've buried two other close friends to cancer. We live in the highest-cancer county in NC. We cannot escape its treacherous and perilous grip. We can, however, escape it's final word! You have so beautifully scripted hope here.

    We pray for God's lavish hope to be our portion as we walk and minister amongst the wounded. Our souls have bruised in deep ways.

    Thanks for giving us the story of your father-in-law several posts back when you wrote about the farm being passed down to your husband. Truly, one of the most memorable tributes I've ever read.


  19. christy rose

    I always love to visit you and I definitely would love to have coffee and talk about the deep things of God with you. That would be a great delight. But You are right, I guess for now, I will drink my coffee while i visit you online and enjoy your visit over at my place as well.
    Maybe someday other opportunities will arise.

    This poem? Oh MY! It was just beautiful!


  20. Mama D.

    I wish I could have thought of what Bill Coffey said,"same heart and same eyes as yours."

    Amazing girl..you are…always teaching and giving as you write..

    Thanks for every blog you write.

  21. Faith Imagined

    Oh! What a wonderful post!!! I have tears in my eyes!!!

  22. Lyla Lindquist

    Mama D., I had suspected that "same heart and eyes" came at least in part through you . . .

  23. Jennifer

    True that, Lyla! My mom rocks.

  24. LisaShaw


    Thanks for sharing with us.

    Blessings and peace.

  25. Claire

    All four my grandparents had it. Both my parents had it. I am still whole by His grace.

    Selfless living is what your poem represents.

  26. sojourner

    came over from HighCalling Blogs Poetry Friday. This phrase captured my heart:

    "Unbroken ring of
    I slipped in …
    to pray tonight."

  27. gblcht

    I can relate to this post, as my life has also been affected by cancer. For this reason, Osceola County is a fitting place for me to be. They've been hosting a Relay the last eight years, raising the most per capita of any county in Iowa five of those years. More than raising funds, it's about raising awareness. That's why I have issued a challenge. If my newspaper, the Osceola County Gazette-Tribune raises $500, by Relay time, I will shave my head. So far, we've sold seven footprints that say "One step closer to a cure," and we are $473 from our goal. Whether we reach our goal or not is really irrelevant, I just wanted to be a unique part of the awareness campaign. Thanks again for everything you do!

    The Rook
    Gabe Licht


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