“I believe God made me for a purpose. …And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
I remember the evening well. It was the Monday after Christmas, Dec. 27th. Mom had been in the hospital since her stroke on the morning of December 19. We knew she had cancer and we knew we had to be aggressive in trying to find the best way to treat it. Together, as a family, we had decided five days earlier to discontinue the blood thinners that she was taking in order to stabilize her for a biopsy. Although Mom steadily declined and became more and more uncomfortable during the passing five days, she was able to get the biopsy on this morning. What a relief.
When my step-father, Wayne, arrived at the hospital late in the afternoon, without hesitation I put on shorts and a long-sleeve T-shirt and went to take advantage of the unusually warm winter day. I needed the fresh air. I needed to just go – to get out of those walls that seem to be closing in on me. And I (and she) needed him to care for her, just for a few minutes.
I remember the sunset. I remember the overwhelming sense of worry. Why was she in so much pain? What would the biopsy show? Would the doctor be right… would she probably only survive 4-9 months? What was happening at the hospital while I was running? Was she OK? Did she need me? I need to get back, NOW.
When I got back to her hospital room, she and Wayne were having difficulty communicating. She was in so much pain that talking loud enough for him to hear her was nearly impossible. They were frustrated – at each other and the reality that was sinking in. Mom was sick, really sick and none of us could deny it. Wayne left shortly after and she and I were left in the quiet. She asked me about my run and I told her about the beautiful weather and how thankful I was to get to take advantage of it. She smiled and took pleasure with me.
I began running in 2000 and lost 45 pounds that year. During 2008, Mom had been faithful in her exercise and careful with her diet. She had learned to appreciate a whole new lifestyle of fitness and wellness and daily we would encourage one another. I’m not sure how much weight she lost all together, probably around 35 pounds. The day her hand started going numb, she had gone five miles on her elliptical machine. She understood my passion for running – she was experiencing the passion for herself.
My runner’s log (journal) for the day simply said, “Ran from the hospital.... things are not good. This was by far the best part of the day.”
This was the best part of many, many days to come. She told me to go home about 8 p.m. or so and by 8:30 I left. My heart was heavy. I was beginning to wonder when she was going to turn the corner and start feeling better. I was beginning to worry that she might not.
By the next morning, she had lost her ability to speak. She was writhing in pain and had a tortured look in her eyes. The first sight of her that morning took my breath away. As it turns out, my sweet, dear mother left me somewhere in the middle of the night. The cancer had ravaged her body and caused clots to form all over. All we could do was make her comfortable, say our goodbyes and wait. She died two days later.
Learning to live without her has been a struggle – one that is made easier by lacing up my shoes and hitting the streets. Running has helped breath life into me again. It is on my runs that I talk to God, search for answers, and look for any visible sign that Mom is near. It’s also where I find the comfort of many of my closest friends, who – thankfully - have traveled the dark path with me.
So it will come to no surprise to you that I am running my third marathon on Labor Day, Sept. 7. Some days I still run with little purpose, knowing that it won’t matter if I run two miles or 26 miles. It won’t bring her back. But most days, I run with a new thankfulness for the health to do it and I do so remembering how my running brought so much pride to my mother.
The marathon is going to be here in Columbia and starts at 6 a.m. This is the 50th anniversary of the race, which reminds me fondly of mom’s 50th birthday when she announced to everyone that I was going to give her a grandchild as a gift (I was newly pregnant with Madison). Ironically, the race is called the Heart of America Marathon. And I will run it in memory of my heart, my love, my mom. And I will do it proudly and victoriously in her honor.
Just as I have done in my two previous marathons, I am asking for prayer for a successful marathon. During this week, please remember me in your prayers and ask for God’s divine strength to blanket me on every one of the 26 miles. Pray that God will keep me healthy and strong and that He will be glorified through the effort.
And as a final request, this year I am also asking that in addition to praying for me, that you pray for someone who is currently battling cancer. Each one of us knows someone whose life is being touched by this disease. This week, please be committed to praying for this person, his/her family and for God to work in their lives. Great things can happen when we come together in prayer. To do so this week honors my mother’s deep faith in the God she served with great conviction.
Thank you for taking this 26.2-mile journey with me and for bringing someone along with you.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race." (2 Timothy 4.7)