Many of you know that my beautiful mom passed away from ALS, or Lou Gerihg’s disease, a little over three weeks ago. She was originally diagnosed the previous year. She happily passed the time this last year surrounded by her grandkids and loved ones as this terminal disease shut her body down bit by bit.
Something that she and I shared regularly throughout this past year were my running adventures seen through pictures and tall tales. When she could still talk freely, she would analyze each shot and ask me specifics on the terrain or mountain-scape that the lens would highlight. She would ask me about the logistics of longer runs or about the character of my running comrades. These were precious times and special memories made in the mountains where I could take her there mentally because physically was just not an option anymore.
As her voice faded, not her mind, she would still nod and make the effort to let me know that we were behind on our trail tales and race recaps. I gladly shared all I could without alarming her as she was still my mother. She would show me the same type of interest as her eyes would sparkle with approval or roll with sarcasm.
She had always been my champion. As an athlete since I was young, she would be the mom in the stands at swim meets cheering for me in-between my breaststroke breaths. She would hug me tight when I would ride the pine during high school basketball games and assure me that things would be better. This was the lady who would drive a few hours from Colorado to meet me at a race so she could watch my kiddos while I ran. Always supportive, always my champion.
Although her death was certain, nothing quite prepares you for the void of loss. It’s been an emotion struggle; most of which I deal with privately. And when I can’t seem to get my crap together, I run. There has been no greater healer, for me, than to take my emotions to the trails for mountain therapy.
There’s so much strength that comes with reaching a summit, or propelling down a decent. Strength that seems to fill that void.
As I’ve been meandering around the peaks in my area, I’ve started to notice as I’ve never noticed before, heart-shaped rocks. Now, I’m not sure why I’ve never really seen these before. But, in the last several weeks four or five of these rocks seem to pop out on the trail out of nowhere during each run. I pick up as many as I can without overloading my hydration pack and take them to her grave.
I’ve learned so very much about life and love in this past year. It’s apparent to me that love (or the shape of love) can be found really in the most obscure places: sides of cliffs, middle of a pile of scree or at the bottom of a pond. Love is wherever you look for it, but you have to remember to search for it. My champion mom is still just as a part of my daily training/trail time as ever. I find and feel her love in every heart I see.
Happy trails, sisters!