Thanks to the generosity of the East Meadow Herald, I am humbled to have opportunities to write about breast cancer awareness, and I am grateful that this year is no different. The chance to remind all to conduct self-exams, get mammograms and contribute to charities to fight this disease remains critically important.
Although I have had friends and family that survived this disease, during this beautiful season in New York I think of my buddy, Valerie.
Autumn and Valerie were good acquaintances as she was a gifted graphic artist, cartoonist and home seamstress who loved Halloween even more than I do. She made her costumes from scratch — my particular favorite was the carpenter ant that was complete with hard hat, toolbox, exoskeleton and many legs.
Valerie’s thrifty ingenuity came in handy when we threw a Halloween baby shower for my first-born. I came as the pregnant lady and she traded her hard hat and toolbox for a disposable diaper a la baby ant. The sheer nerve to walk in that outfit through the streets of Brooklyn wearing that outfit is legendary, and a great story every time it’s retold.
Valerie lost her battle with breast cancer in 2004 and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. When participating in this year’s Susan G. Komen NYC Race for the Cure I prepared myself to walk alone, concerned about the solitude. But I hoped she was with me. More than any other day, among the fierce survivors and their pink pride, she was in my mind; her humor, her wisdom, her care. I don’t know much about the afterlife, but if it exists, Valerie is writing the gag cartoons.
A few days ago, I read familiar prayers about holding the memory of loved ones close; poetry that spoke of remembering them during the blue skies of summer, the winter’s chill, the buds of spring. But for me, in the rustling of the leaves and the colors of fall, I appreciate Valerie’s friendship and the quiet legacy she left behind. I keep it close with every step I take.
Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive working on Long Island. She teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY and LIU Post. Her story on a Jewish education program impacting our local community appears in “Thin Threads: Real Stories of Hadassah Life Changing Moments,” published July 2012.