In Memory of a Champion


Today, on Mother’s Day weekend, thousands of Breast Cancer Survivors, their supporter, family and friends as well as those who have been impacted by this terrible disease ran, walked, danced and celebrated in support of a cure in Washington, DC. I am a relative newcomer to this annual event in the city in which I live. I am however, all too familiar with a disease that has taken the lives of far too many, too soon. I’m only in my second year of an event that continues to grow in its size and impact. Nearly 17 years ago I lost my mother to breast cancer. It would take me almost that entire time to actively engage in the cause, not for a lack of support, but rather preparation for the range of emotions the reflections of the day inevitably bring both for the race and for Mother’s Day.

The role and importance of mothers on their children and in our culture is well documented and often crucial to a child’s development with a lifetime of benefits for those fortunate enough to have positive maternal influences. I was blessed to have a stellar mother who demonstrated daily the virtues of faith, love, hope, patience, kindness, discipline and maybe most of all care and compassion for others. Her loss, seemingly like yesterday, left a void as it often does, never to be refilled. This made the initial Mother’s Days after her death a day to avoid like the plague, which was extremely difficult to do not only on a market driven Hallmark Holdiay, but also because it meant facing the conundrum of attending church on Mother’s Day. Attend and I’m instantly reminded of her absence in a place where she raised me amidst the tributes and brunches. Avoid and I actually do the very thing she fought me tooth and nail not to do as a kid. That decision process only took a couple of years. I honor her memory every Sunday now and have for years.

The Race for the Cure literally was a journey, that began spur of the moment last year and took on serious focus this year with training, new running shoes and all. This is big.  Anyone who really knows, knows I have not been a runner. The idea of just lacing up shoes and running miles down the road ranked about as high on my to do list as a root canal. Last year however in running the race on a mere 3 days of training, call it bed to 5k, non stop in a blistering 45 minutes I had an epiphany. Running, grueling as it might be, was the perfect way to pay tribute to the life of sacrifice, strength and even the suffering she experienced. No matter how dark the challenge, she never gave up on her family on others on herself. The least I can do is run in her honor, support and raise resources for the cure. 

This year I trained and focused. Training that took me around DC to across the Brooklyn Bridge. This year was a struggle, not of exhaustion but of pushing limits. I met my goal. I finished with a personal best shaving last years 15 min/mile pace to 9:30min/mile often fueled by memories of sacrifices she made on my behalf.  Today however was about far more than me or my mother. It was about those thousands of people who were also running in celebration or in memory of their mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, and friends who have found a place, even if just once a year to express joy and/or sorrow. I get it now. 

A week from today I will return to the city of my birth and the city of my mother’s birth to run in that race. I can only imagine that in Detroit, I will “get it” even more clearly. I look forward to the celebration next week, next year and every year I’m blessed to walk this earth.  That ability after all, I owe to my mother. 

Happy Mother’s Day Everyone.

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