Relay for Life vigil lights up Sycamore streets

SYCAMORE – Joyce Bubb thought of the impact her sister-in-law had on her family as she circled candle-lit paper lanterns Thursday night. 

Bubb had created a paper lantern, or luminaria, in memory of her sister-in-law Brenda, who died at age 56 from cancer last year. The Sycamore resident said Brenda got to be a mother and grandmother before she died. 

While she had a rough life, she lived through it all with a smile.

“I like thinking of her in heaven,” Bubb said. 

Bubb was one of dozens of people who endured the cold weather outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore to commemorate loved ones who lost their battle with cancer and those who find themselves still struggling. Each person created a luminaria with a personal message on the paper bag and placed them outside the courthouse. 

The ceremony is usually done during the Relay for Life event, which is considered the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, a nonprofit health organization. But members of Relay for Life of DeKalb County wanted to host a luminaria vigil this month to give people going through a difficult time during the holidays a chance to mourn or remember. 

“Everyone mourns differently,” said Shannon O’Keefe, volunteer event chairwoman for Relay for Life of DeKalb County. “We offer this to people who want to be vocal.” 

Helping Relay for Life for DeKalb County with the ceremony were members of the Kishwaukee Bible Church in Sycamore. Church members sang carols and offered prayers for the participants. Jeff Johnson, a church staff member, gave a speech to participants at the front of the courthouse about remembering lost loved ones. 

“It’s not a past love, it’s a present love,” he said. “We’re here because we love them. … These bags represent people who have impacted us greatly in a number of ways.”

Some of the luminaria bags had names of mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers. One bag was lit in memory of everyone who bravely battled cancer. After the vigil, each participant blew out the candles and carried the luminaria bags back inside the Kishwaukee Bible Church office. 

Sycamore resident Kelli Larsen came to the vigil because she lost two members of her family to cancer. 

“You got to remember the loved ones and also raise awareness about cancer,” she said.