Me: Hey mom, do you you want to do a 5K with Jas and I next week?
Mom: I haven’t ran in over a month.
Me: Me, either.
Mom: Oh, okay then I’ll do it
That’s how the conversation went and 3 days later we were standing at the starting line waiting to go. At this point I’m confident I’ll finish strong and am happy to be out on a beautiful day with one of my best friends, mom, and supportive spectator of a fiance. The race started and we had all agreed to go at our own pace and just wait for each other at the finish.
I was feeling great, the crowd dispersed, and I was ready to pass my mom and then I stopped.
My mom and I have run before but my stepdad was always there. If I ever went up ahead he’d always stay with her even though he’s way faster than I am. His flight was delayed so he couldn’t make it to this race even though he was willing to jump in after flying all night. Literally, he’s a pilot. I felt I had to do right by him and show her the unconditional love and patience he shows her daily. He always tells me “Love is a choice” and in that moment I wanted to understand more of the power to choose love because what I really wanted was to set a personal record.
So here I am staring at my mom and decided to stay right behind her. I never told her I was there. I wanted to make sure she was ok. I didn’t want her to think I didn’t believe in her so I kept my distance and just reminisced on what it was like to grow up with my mom. I thought about this moment and all the things that have lead up to it.
So many times I could have easily ran ahead but then I remembered she could have, too. Not now but when I was young and she was alone. Widowed at a young age and with 2 lovable yet challenging young daughters she could have chosen the path of least resistance and followed her own dreams but she didn’t. She put my sister and I first. I thought about all the hard times we gave her and probably made her question why she sacrificed so much for us in the first place but chose to keep putting us first. I think of her giving up her passion of flying because a 5 year old me was scared to lose her that way, too. Then I smiled because I thought about her meeting my (step)dad almost 20 years later and he would take her flying and a part of me felt her reunited with her passion. She embraced it once again and put her desires first after being last for so long and she was free to be herself. Life hasn’t been the same for any of us since.
I thought about how often she silently followed me just hoping she will be able to catch me when I fall. Hating when she couldn’t and holding her breath when she wanted to help me figure things out on my own. I watched her slow her pace and get tired. I wanted to reach out and hand her some water but somehow she would pick up speed and reach for her water before I could intervene. When I saw her get tired I wanted to shout of words of encouragement but then a stranger would give her a smile or she would simply look around and absorb the energy around her. I was filled with so much pride to see her succeed on her own as I imagine she does for my sister and I daily. I realize being a parent is forever no matter how old my children will get.
I thought about the heart I had drawn on my stomach. My idea was to run the race without my shirt to spread the message of self love but up until mile 2 I had chickened out. I was afraid of what my friend, fiance, mom, and 2,000 other strangers would think. I thought about how the pictures would come out with me running. Then I thought about how how scared and unsure a single mom’s life must have been in a new country and with little support. How many fears did my mom face that I will never know or understand? How small is my hurdle in comparison. So, the shirt came off and with my head held high and focus still on my mom just kept running.
I thought about my own mortality and how quickly life passes by. Here I was in a race with my friend of 19 years and thankful we could squeeze in some time to see each other before we got back to our own children and families. I wondered how bittersweet those moments are as my mom has watched me grow over the last 32 years unable to but wishing she could pause every moment just to make it last one second longer. I don’t know when I’ll see my friend or mom again because we live so far away but I always assume I will and I shouldn’t because life doesn’t promise us things like that. Every moment with the people you love is precious.
I smiled when we got .1 mile away from the finish line. Jas had finished but instead of waiting she ran back to find us. That’s the kind of friend she has always been. That’s when my mom finally realized I was behind her. No one even question why my shirt was tucked into my pants. Jas looked at me, smiled, and said “I like the heart”. We all ran towards the finish line and crossed it together. I looked over and saw my fiance beaming with pride as he snapped away at the three of us sprinting or “finishing strong” like my dad would say.
We’re all heading towards our finish line.
Sometimes we’ll have to walk. Sometimes we will feel like we can’t continue. Sometimes the encouragement of a stranger will help keep us moving. Sometimes we will watch those we love go ahead of us. Sometimes we’ll finish it together. Sometimes we will take comfort in knowing someone is cheering us along even though we can’t see them.
To mom: I won’t tell you not to worry anymore because it’s something you can’t turn off. I will just smile and tell you how much I love you every chance I get.
To dad: Your presence is present because your love and example is bigger than you’ll ever know. Also, you owe me a 5K.
To Jas: I think 10 years from now we’re still going to wonder where life is going to take us. For now, I am thankful your path continues to cross with mine.
To Jon: Your behind the scenes encouragement and support is everything.
To YOU: Yes, you. This is a message from my heart to yours. You are loved and supported. Always.