Oh, What a Night!

4 12 2011


That’s me in the picture, sending off the final Sky Lantern last night — the only solid, bright pink one, ordered especially for me by my bff Kristi Rugh Kahl. I released it heavenward, carrying my Birthday Wish. I’d reveal what that was, but you know what superstition says about that…

Oh, what a night
Late December back in ’63
What a very special time for me
‘Cause I remember what a night.
(Franki Valli)

So it was early December in the year 2011, but still, Oh, What a Night! And yes, it was a very special time for me. One that I’ll never forget.

About 200 friends and family members gathered at Van Buren Park. Some drove in from as far as Grand Rapids just for this event (you know who you are, Mike and Therese O’Connor!), and some hailed from New Zealand. Blog reader and new-found friend Deb Biggs, who I met online via my blog when she was living in New Zealand, returned recently to her home state of Michigan. After months of chatting online, we finally got to meet in person last night!

We were so blessed by the weather. 52 degrees on December 3 is not the norm for Michigan by any stretch of the imagination. Not only that, the evening kept its promise of staying rain-free.

A quick check-in and a few words by me and we were off and lighting! As this was our first time setting off such a large number of lanterns in such a big crowd, we had expected the process to be a little bit, er, a, slower. We had 150 lanterns to send skyward. Don tried to organize the crowd into concentric circles so that we could let the lanterns off in some sort of organized way, but that quickly fell by the wayside.

Maybe I have a lot of pyromaniacs for friends, or maybe they’re just really enthusiastic (I prefer to think the latter), but once the first lantern went up, suddenly, there were both small and large groups of people spread out across the field, lighting off one lantern after another after another. Up they went, and it was a beautiful and amazing sight as the lanterns filled the sky with streaks of golden light. The winds pulled them off into a north-easternly direction and we watched the lights ascend and travel farther and farther until we couldn’t see them anymore.

That’s when we started getting the reports. Cell phones went off in the crowd. The sky lanterns had been spotted over Willow Run Airport, floating over the annual downtown Belleville Christmas parade (perhaps the spectators there thought it was all part of the grand plan) — and eventually, miles away, hovering over I-94 and I-275, still blazing brightly. People drove into the park, just to see what was going on. They pulled over to the side of the road along the I-94 Service Drive to watch as the magical lights floated overhead, beaming and twinkling heavenward, ever so brightly. (Rumor has it that my hot pink birthday lantern did not follow the others, but blazed its own trail up there in the sky. Hmm…)

Just a few minutes past six o’clock, our mission was complete. We had lift-off! 120 lanterns bearing the pink ribbon breast cancer symbol and 30 memory lanterns, inscripted with the names of those who were being remembered or honored last night, along with one special, hot pink lantern just for me that I released as I simultaneously made my birthday wish for the upcoming year. And, in various places around the country and the globe, friends and family had synchronized their clocks to our time zone and joined us in the lantern release.

Countless people told me afterwards that it was one of the most beautiful sights they’ve ever experienced. Don Theo and I are right there with them on that. My niece Danielle Neilson videotaped the various lantern lift-offs throughout the crowd, and she’s posted her video to YouTube. Watching the lanterns make their way skyward as well as listening to the candid chatter in the background offers a really good feel for what the evening was like. We wanted to make every effort to post video of the event for all of the people across the country and around the world who purchased lanterns or donated to the event, but were unable to participate. Wish granted. Kudos, Danielle!

A great big shout out and very special thank you to my bff Kristi Rugh Kahl and her husband, Brian, and son, Logan, for all of their hard work and preparation in the past several weeks. (They were running around like maniacs the night before the event, making sure every last detail had been accounted for.) Thank you also to my mother-in-law, Margaret Neilson, for creating the custom CD of songs I hand-picked for the event, and to Anita Griglio Kelly for making sure the band shell and stage were properly lit and the PA system and microphone would do their job. And they did. The event went off without a hitch! (We had a couple of fire extinguishers waiting in the wings, but thank God, there was no need!)

One last shout out to the people at www.theskylantern.com, who made sure we had the lanterns we needed by the date we needed them by — and even gave us some wiggle room so we could extend the purchase deadline by a week. These sky lanterns are so amazing and there are so many cool designs that I’m planning to order a few of my own, just to have on hand at home, for those moments when I want to walk out into the back yard and send one off with whispered wishes and prayers, hope and love, up, up, and away, to greet the moon and stars.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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19 responses

4 12 2011
Joanne

FABULOUS!! Sending positive thoughts and vibes your way!

4 12 2011
Marie Petrides

Amy it truly was a magical moment. I watched it on youtube and got the chills. Your family and friends lit up the sky with the brightness of love and light for you. Light is a symbol of HOPE. May you blessed with an abundance of Good Health, Hope and Love always……Marie

4 12 2011
Ken and Gay

Dearest Amy, Don and Theo, What a sight, what a night!! We were so thrilled to be a part of the sky light lift off!! Just imagine how many people were blessed by seeing the lanterns from other locations! Part of the joy was watching all those in the park and especially the children delighting in the lights going higher and higher! Lotus and I were looking at the various shapes the lanterns formed in the sky. Some formed a diamond shape, one formed a huge dragon!! Of course we all know the dragon was coming to carry on the fight by your side, your protector and champion! Awesome stuff dear lady!!! We LOVE YOU!!!

4 12 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

It was such a blessing to have you there. You are two amazing people, God’s people, and I know meeting you 20 years ago was no accident, but Divinely guided. We love you with all of our hearts.

4 12 2011
Bob Adams

Truly awsome. Wish I could have been there.

4 12 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

Me too, Bob. Me too. Xxooxoxo

4 12 2011
kiapet51

It was an amazing night. I loved watching the different lanterns go off into the black sky. The special moment was when you sent your lantern off. That lantern appeared as if it wanted to go in many different directions at the same time, which only reminded me of you. I am so thankful that I got to be a part of the evening and finally got to meet you.

4 12 2011
Danielle Neilson

When I posted this blog on my facebook a friend of mine said “I was wondering why all these lanterns were lighting up 94. A friend of mine thought it was a UFO. Lol. Very pretty I must say!”

It’s so cool knowing how many people saw your lanterns flying trough the air!

4 12 2011
Kristi Rugh Kahl

An awesome night indeed….oh what a night! I’m relieved it all turned out and the weather did its part in keeping us dry! You are blessed to have so many family and friends there for you, whether in person or in spirit. Thank you to everyone for your support! We couldn’t have had such a magical night without it.

4 12 2011
kerri daugherty

Amy u are amazing. The night was amazing. Glad I could be apart of. An most of all I’m glad to know you

4 12 2011
Rita P

Wow, that was awesome to watch and the symbolism is superb. Onwards and upwards dear Amy!

5 12 2011
Marnie

Pyromaniacs huh?! All I can picture is Beavis and Butthead saying (with fists cleanched) “Fire!..FIRE!!” All kidding aside, it was an amazing night…as if we were placing the most beautiful golden stars into the heavens…a very inspiring night! Keep looking up….XOXOX

5 12 2011
Danielle

could you send me the video, I would love to see it?

5 12 2011
Danielle Neilson

Here’s the link

5 12 2011
Jennifer Bopp Stegbauer

Thanks for the video Danielle. There is something about sending a light out into the world. A recurring theme in the Bible.

7 12 2011
Juergen

Absolutely! Advent is certainly a great time to send out lights:-)
Wonderful event, great video to feel as if we were part of it.
And an awesome way, Amy, to also celebrate your b-day (happiest belated , anyway, not to forget!!)
Love and keep going, we are with you,
Juergen

5 12 2011
Jon

It was a great time, and we got to see them going over I94 right before we pulled in. We were all honored to be a part of it

5 12 2011
CFW

Amy, I just wanted to let you know that you looked spendid!
I saw the lights over I94, what a sight. That was just Magnifique!
Alice

5 12 2011
Rita O'Connor

What great feed back from everyone Amy! Wish I could have seen that. I KNOW it will do what was intended…to raise MORE research for this cancer.
Down the road there will be MILLIONS who you will have helped. Love you always…Mom Reet

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