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Pink October Comes to an End

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For almost 14 years, this has been my favorite, and yet most dreaded, month.

pink ribbon for breast cancer

Sue Carswell: My mother, Elaine, was a victim of breast cancer, and passed away at the age of 63. She was our tree, and her five children, or her branches, each fell apart when she left us. After the first year of her death, my two sisters and I did a breast cancer awareness three-day walk in October to remember her -- not as she lay dying, the cancer metastasizing into almost every reach of her bones -- but when she was so beautiful, radiant, and always smiling, so happy just to live life with the five grandchildren she knew.

Since she left, it pains me to think that mine will never know her, but just her legend, which I wrote about in my memoir, Faded Pictures from My Backyard (Random House Inc.), which was an enormous love letter I wrote in my mother's memory. My mother lived for the World Series (October), she lived to take rides with my father throughout the Northeast just to see the passing colors of the trees. "Oh John," she would say, giggling to my father, "that one looks like the image of my hair."

Ironically, my mother first lost her hair in October, its red strands leaving her forever, to fall away on her pillow as she went off to sleep each night, never dreaming of sugarplums anymore, but rather the fate that might grab ahold of her, which it did. And in her absence, October became our month to share her memories and to connect with others who lost their mothers, sisters, and close relatives to this wretched disease.

It is the month when we adorn our bags in pink bows, and my brothers their lapels. We see these same ribbons on our friends, or in passing on various people at the grocery stores where we all shop in our different cities. Kindred folks, all of us. I always nod my head at anyone who wears a pink ribbon, as if to say, "Oh yes. I know!" And now the end of the month has come, when most people put their ribbon away until the next year, and the years after that. For some of us, pink ribbons feel like kisses falling from heaven letting us know that perhaps those who have passed, like my mom, know that we will never forget them. October is the month for you, Mom, as is every single day.

Love you, Sue

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