Where the water turns pink

Published 5:07 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Two weeks ago, I was returning from Gulf Shores, Alabama, to Atlanta after a week-long family vacation at the beach. My son who lives in Denver along with his girlfriend, Kendra, were traveling with me. They were going to take flights out of Atlanta the next day.

As we talked our way north, Corey said, “Mom, can we drive through LaGrange? I would like to see it again and show northern bred Kendra what a Georgia town looks like other than Atlanta!”

We pulled off I-85 on a Saturday afternoon and slowly drove toward Lafayette Square. Once there, my heart fell to the floor when I saw the water arc upward around the fountain in pink ribbons of sparkling liquid. Pink fabric was woven into the border fence to appear as a big ribbon encasing the green grass, trees and shrubs. The sun was lowering and casting a cooling shadow over the statue of the Marquis de Lafayette. It was stunning.

The scene was so captivating that Kendra, who is an excellent photographer, started snapping pictures and a video as we slowly drove around the park twice.

As enchanting and lovely as the town had made the square, there is no beauty in what the pink represents. Breast cancer is a mean, ugly disease intent on taking lives and causing pain. It takes mothers away from babies, daughters away from mothers and wives away from husbands. The disease is dark and bleak.

This Thursday is my daughter’s birthday. It was Oct. 11, 2011, when we gathered on the beach in Gulf Shores for another family vacation. Heather had just completed her first round of chemotherapy a few weeks before the trip. Her daughter was then 6-years-old and for a brief seven days we laughed in the sun and played in the sand.

Heathers blond hair was falling to her shoulders and falling to the floor by the end of the week. She took it in stride and tried her best not to allow her disease to ruin the week or her child’s fun.

At the time, even in the sun, I felt darkness. I hated breast cancer, and all the October pink was fraying my nerves.  As she blew out her candles on that fall night, we had no idea what the next few months of her 38th year would bring.

More surgery accompanied by more rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, infections, and heartaches would follow. By the end of all the treatments, I believe the only thing holding us on solid ground was the thousands of prayers that were lifted from family, friends and from the town where a fountain rains pink in October.

Today, Heather turns 45. Every day she lives is a day of gratitude for her survival. Our family lives with a bit of fear, but it doesn’t dominate our days. I get very concerned when she is under too much stress, but that is just me being mama. I never let my kids grow up. So, I treat them like they are 7 and I tell them what they need to do. They roll their eyes, and I ignore them. Life seems more normal that way.

Once my child survived the darkness to see the light of a blue sky, pink no longer gets on my nerves. Pink is the color that brings hope and donations to stop the disease from taking a child away from their mother. If those ribbons of pink had not increased the awareness of breast cancer and made funding available for research, I know I along with many other mothers, fathers, husbands and children would be lost in a sea of grief.

As Kendra took photos, I was so proud of the town that celebrates pink. I was happy with the many merchants who displayed pink ribbons on their doors and pushed awareness of the darkness of cancer into the light.

“See, Kendra, this is LaGrange! This is the town which welcomes old friends home, prays for those in trouble and turns water pink to help cure a disease. This is the heartbeat of the south and who we are.”

Happy birthday to all those who have survived to enjoy another year of living. Donate today so they may continue to do so.