Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Never Give Up: Sylvia McNair

At a benefit for breast cancer, I heard world-famous Sylvia McNair sing music from Broadway and opera. Between songs she spoke of her battle with cancer and how crucial her community of friends was to her recovery. 
She did not lecture us about the disease, nor did she tell us what we had to do to fight breast cancer. She simply talked about her struggles and shared what enabled her to get through the chemotherapy, surgery, doubt, and despair. She did not hide from how hard the battle was, or how scared she had been about dying. She spoke openly of her sorrow as well as of her joy and hope. 

Her smile was proof that the beast of cancer could be beaten.

She also spoke of a friend from her hometown who had been diagnosed at the same time with the same kind and at the same stage of the cancer. Although they received the same treatment, her friend died. “It’s just not fair,” Sylvia said. And it isn’t.  

We do not know everything that will happen to us. As much as we like to think that we know everything that concerns us and are in almost-complete control of our lives, we don’t control the entire universe. We’re not aware of all the possibilities that exist, and what we thought were sure things, really aren’t. Today cancer does not mean impending death. Often the unexpected happens, something that we didn’t even know was an option. What we thought was set in stone was only written in sand, and the next big wave washes that away and brings in a different option.

The world is continually changing. We are constantly facing new challenges and changing because of them. Through our struggles we discover strengths that we never knew existed, in ourselves and in others.
McNair’s message is simple: “Do not give up hope. Ever.”


  1. Good message from an inspiring woman. Whether we have a deathly disease or not. Thank you for your reflections, Mark.