Today is one of those days when I wish I was in Tuscaloosa. Not to watch the Tide play or revisit my college days, but to pay my respect to my dear friend Anna.
As many of you recall from a previous column, Anna passed away in June after two and a half year battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. It's a loss that I'm still bearing. Since the weather has begun to change, the leaves started to fall and football season has kicked into full gear, I miss her and her Saturday football Facebook updates now more than ever.
Today on the campus of The University of Alabama, the place she loved more than anything, a touching tribute will be held on the Quad. Denny Chimes will ring in her honor as University President Robert Witt will speak and the University Singers will perform a few songs.
I would love nothing more than to be there, but work will hold me up. So instead, I'll write about her memory again.
Last week I watched as The Crimson Tide drowned the Kent State Golden Eagles, sweeping to victory in fine fashion. And then again on Saturday, Alabama moved to 2-0 with a resounding win over Penn State in State College, Pa. During those gamesI couldn't help but think of Anna and her famous "I ain't never been nothin' but a winner' banner she carried with her everywhere. As I read in an article published by the University's student newspaper The Crimson White, Anna carried that banner to each job, each hospital stay and each apartment she was part of. It was her motto.
Even after being diagnosed with leukemia, just a few weeks shy of graduation, Anna had high hopes to continue her college education. She wanted to end up working for a university, helping other students find the path of their own lives. Given a little time, Anna would have been running a college, even UA. That's just the type of determined person she was.
To say I miss Anna is an understatement. I find her life in the smiles of the children I take care of at church. I find her sense of adventure in my own desire to see the world. I find comfort in the simple words "Roll Tide." Those words bonded us. Anna's character and endurance is the timeless testimony that will reign true even when my own children enter this world.
My hope in life is to start the Anne E. Gordon Foundation for Leukemia Research. That desire might seem like a long shot to many people, but to me, it's just another part of the journey. An endowed scholarship has been set up in her name at the University, a great start to preserving her memory at the school she loved the most.
As September ends and October kicks into full gear, I can't wait to see the efforts the Scottsboro Fire Department and the entire community will get involved in as Jackson County supports the power of pink. I've been waiting for that all year long. Anna's death has made me even more appreciative of the efforts from the community to support great causes like cancer awareness.
But for now, September is national Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness month. I'm trying to find stories in Jackson County of individuals, children and adults, that have battled leukemia and would talk with me about their journey. The story of surviving cancer is a testimony like no other. People who lose the battle live on in the memory of the caregivers, survivors and family members. I'm looking for those stories as well.
To the cancer patients who are fighting, know that you "ain't never been nothin' but a winner." Regardless how painful or terrible the struggle may seem, you are brave, strong and resilient. But most of all, courageous.