RFL Closing Ceremony – Empty Table Ritual

The other day in my RFL reflection, I said that I would be posting about the most touching part of RFL after the Honor Lap and the Luminaria Ceremony. At the very end of every RFL weekend, both inworld and in the real world, there is a reading the chairs do to close out the weekend and launch us on to our Victory Lap. The ritual is a reminder that no matter how bleak it looks, there is still hope…in a better future, in finding a cure, in beating the disease…no matter what, there is always hope. That’s what I leave with every time I hear the Empty Table Ritual. I’m posting the ritual here for others…No matter what you’re facing, there’s always hope.


We call your attention to the small table that occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that some of our loved ones are missing from this gathering. They have been diagnosed with cancer, and they are some of the names and faces behind luminaries.

The chair is empty. Many of those who fought the battle with cancer are no longer with us, but rather than mourning their loss, we choose to celebrate their life.

These people are unable to be with their loved ones and families now, so let us join together to recognize and honor them, and to bear witness to their struggle and their memory.

The table is small, symbolizing the frailty of a single patient, sometimes alone in the fight against his or her disease.

The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the medical profession: doctors, nurses, and researchers who help fight the battle for life.

The single rose in the vase signifies the enduring love of their families and friends and the strength of a patients’ will to fight the disease that ultimately claimed many of them.

The pink ribbon on the vase represents the ribbons worn on the lapels of millions who support a continued search for a cure not only for breast cancer, but for other cancers as well — cancers that are expected to kill over half a million people in the United States this year.

A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of the bitter battle against a deadly disease, a battle fought by more than 1.3 million new patients each year.

The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless tears of personal anguish shed by the patient and those shed by family members and friends who have lost a loved one.

The glass is inverted in memory of those people who are not here to join our celebration of successes.

But, the candle represents the light of hope that lives in the hearts of all of us — hope represented by cancer survivors and the hope for a cure discovered as a result of the detailed work of the medical profession made able through funds generated through events such as Relay For Life.

Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the 2016 RFL of SL.