Reading further, it came back to me all too quickly; Rachel's sister was Angela Herrera, who I had worked with at the GJPD until December 2002, when she died at the age of 25. Angie's passing coincided with Jan's 50th birthday, and has always stuck with me in part because of that, but also because Angela was a respected co-worker and a genuinely good person who left us too soon.
Reading the obituary of another young member of this family was troubling enough, but the first paragraph also stated in very stark, matter-of-fact terms:
Rachel, who never smoked, fought lung cancer for 20 months after diagnosis. She was just 35 years old.I thought to myself, how many more are there in this area who, even in the absence of any risk factors, are suffering or may suffer a similar fate? What more can be done?
I found one answer to this elsewhere in the Sunday paper.
The annual Relay For Life will be held this weekend at Canyon View Park, and is a chance for all of us to sponsor teams that will walk the park to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
I got to see the positive effects of this firsthand in Pittsburgh two weekends ago. The Relay for Life typically begins with a Cancer Survivor Lap, honoring cancer survivors, their families and caregivers. I arrived at Leslie's house just in time to take Leslie and Michaela to the local football stadium, where Michaela could proudly don her purple "survivor" T-shirt and walk with others from the area who have succeeded in their struggle thus far.
Another key element of the Relay is the lighting of memorial luminaria during the evening hours. This is a very poignant and effective way of honoring or memorializing those loved ones who have been touched by cancer, either personally or as a caregiver, and support the work of the ACS as well.
I'll be out there Friday evening, if only to cheer others on and light some luminaria in memory of Jan and others who have have touched our lives before leaving us for their place in Heaven.
I know that's where Rachel Harrington is now. My deepest sympathies to Steve Harrington, Logan and Maya, and the rest of their respective families. May the knowledge that their beloved wife, mother, and daughter is finally at peace help to bring to them the peace that transcends all understanding, and help them to support each other in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Addendum: The Free Press has reprinted Rachel's winning essay from their "Love Story" contest held this past February. It's on Page 6 of today's print edition. Unfortunately, I've been unable to find an online posting.