In May of 2014 I was asked to be a guest speaker at the Mid American Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of The Year Awards, Wichita, Kansas. The event was held in the Marriott Grand Ballroom. There would be 540 distinguished guests that paid $125.00 a plate to be seated at a table. The event was to start at 5:00 P.M. I was told to be there at 2:00 P.M., and they would tell me how I could help. I was strictly a volunteer, willing to work the tables, serve wine, etc. No big deal. Then just a little before 3:00 P.M., Jenny came over and said, we’ve figured out what we want you to do. We want you to be our surprise guest speaker.
I said nooooo, I can’t do that. I’m not prepared!
She sort of ignored me, and said I would be coming up onto the stage as the last guest speaker of the night. The event would be 3 hours long.
I said, how do you expect me to talk to 540 people that have been drinking wine for 3 hours? Jenny knew I would do anything to help and support research and development of new cancer drugs, and chose to ignore my protests. Laughingly she said, you’ve only got two hours to come up with a plan.
Only living a couple miles away, I ran home and freaked out. I was totally lost, and in a bit of a mess. I desperately wanted to help, but knew when I went up onto the big stage, there would be little room for error.
As I nervously sat at my computer desk, searching my soul for answers, I glanced over to the corner of the desk and looked at an 8×10 picture of Annie taken two months to the day she was diagnosed with fatal cancer. It gave me an idea. I could stand in front of all those people, hold the 8×10 picture up and ask the question, “Do I look like I am dying.” At that point speak to them about how this picture was a cancer trap. You see, in the picture she looks beautiful and happy. Two months to the day later, we were told she only had 3 weeks to live. Quite a contrast and easy for me to passionately speak to. I also decided to write a letter to the audience from Annie, thanking them for their support of blood cancer.
As I stood at the bottom of the stairs to the stage, this well dressed lady walked upon the stage and started talking about this very special guest that was going to speak next–using some flowery words. Apparently I had a very important message. Talk about pressure. When I looked to my right Jenny was standing near me with a big smile on her face saying, “You got this, right.” I simply nodded my head yes.
When I held up Annie’s picture and started talking, all the noise and laughter quieted down. One could hear a pin drop in the room. I had the audiences attention, and as this was not my first guest speaking engagement I knew it was going to go well. I saw lots of tissues coming out, and instinctively felt that my emotions and the audiences were feeding off of each other. And of course, when I read them the letter that I wrote in what I perceived would be Annie’s words if she were here, the crowd really broke down. It took me 1/2 hour to write the letter. When you see the words color me red, the letter at the event was in red lettering as Annie died of a blood cancer.
My name is Annie, Color me Red. I would loved to have been there tonight in person, unfortunately multiple myeloma, an often deadly blood cancer had other plans for me. Please don’t worry about me, I’m doing fine, free of all the pain and suffering. And I promise, I will be there in spirit.
Recently I was awarded my Angel wings, and I now have the freedom to fly around the world. It’s such a beautiful place, one that we don’t often appreciate until we’re gone. Please take it from me, live your life, love, and be happy. Hug and kiss your loved ones as often as you can, that’s what I miss the most. Even with my mystical powers, I can’t do that. I reach out and I try, I see the curious look on their faces as if they know I’m there, but they just can’t feel me. And although it’s not the same, I am there, always there, watching and guiding you as best I can.
I love you all, each and every one of you. You are my family. And from the depth of my soul, I want to thank you for making a difference in the lives of others, especially the poor innocent children that can’t speak out, and can’t be heard. Please pay attention to them, be their voice. Help them! I visited a little girl the other day, she was fighting a blood cancer. She was very sad, and afraid. But I knew the truth, thanks to people like you that stepped up tonight and came to this gathering, she will be fine.
And that’s what this event is about, saving lives. Before I leave you, take a look at your glass, if you notice just a drop missing, that was me. You’ve just been kissed by Angel. I wish you all the best, and always, remember, if you love someone today, try to love them more tomorrow. Life Happens!
Needless to say the letter really touched their hearts. After I spoke, a signed author copy of Because of Annie was held up and received $2,100 in donations in Annie’s honor, and then sold separately to the highest bidder for $1,000. It was a good night and Annie raised a total $3,500 for cancer. I had a couple of personal items of Annie’s there too, that I donated for the charity auction.
Sometimes life is about discovery. And on this night, I discovered that if I reached down far enough into my soul for answers, it would be enough.