Relay for Life

Good Grief: Finding purpose after the death of a loved one

written by Emily Holody (This story was originally shared at Wish Cleveland

I remember clearly the day I met my best friend Heidi. We were in sixth-grade homeroom, and she was new to the school. With our bad glasses and short, permed haircuts, we became fast friends. From that moment on, my life and soul were forever changed. Heidi had a presence and smile that could fill up an entire room. Her blue eyes and “laugh so hard you cry” attitude made life a lot more fun. Over the years, our friendship became more like family. We went from getting dressed for high school homecoming dances to college dorm mates, and eventually helping each other through the transitions of marriage and having children. The two of us always found a way to have fun. Heidi’s giving nature coupled with her ability to make anything a party made her a wonderful soul sister and life sharer.

In October 2014, the unthinkable happened. Heidi sent me a text message saying that doctors found a cantaloupe-sized tumor on her left lung. This seemed impossible to me. How could my full of life, always time for one more friend be telling me this? Weeks later, she was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma  – a rare, aggressive form of cancer with no cure. For three years, we stood with Heidi as she battled her disease like a true warrior, clinging to hope until her last breath.

What’s life like without my soul sister?

A year or so ago, during a dark day, I saw a video of Joe Biden talking about the death of his son Beau to brain cancer. He spoke about grief and loss, saying, “I wanted people to know what an incredible young man my son was….You know, Immanuel Kant’s phrase, there’s three things to happiness: something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. It’s all about trying to take what Beau – what I think, what my family thinks – would be doing were he still here and doing it. It gives you a purpose.”

His words hit me like a freight train and described exactly what I had been struggling with since Heidi’s death. Like Biden, I needed a way for Heidi to live on through me. Thankfully, I was already connected with the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life. I contacted my church and became the captain of our team. Along with many others in Euclid and across the nation, we will work together to raise funds for cancer research. Through fundraising and sharing her story, I’m keeping Heidi’s memory alive. And I am healing. One step at a time.

Euclid High School will host Relay for Life from 6 p.m. to midnight May 10th, 2019.  To date, we’ve raised about $19,000 of our $50,000 goal. Admission is free and will take place at the Sparky Dibiasio Stadium.  We will start the walk with a Survivors Lap and would love for Survivors and their Care Givers to join us for the lap and for dinner.  Feel free to email me with any questions: or visit our event website at

There is hope in finding purpose. I know I’m not the only person who has made sense of loss and found a way through my grief by trying to make a difference. Finding your purpose after tragedy strikes can truly save your life. For me, this includes the hope that someday we will live in a world where no one has to lose their best friend to cancer.

Emily Holody

A Peninsula, Ohio, native, Emily Holody is a stay-at-home mother and freelance writer with a degree in Sociology from Kent State University. She has a background in mental health and social work, loves yoga, all things outdoors, and lives in Euclid with her childhood sweetheart and their family.

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Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 10:36 AM, 05.05.2019