I started walking in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k several years ago. The first time was because my friend Debbie was doing it and offered to let me ride with her. I enjoyed it SO much. I came home and told mom all about it and she was so excited! From that year on, she started coming with me.
The first time she tried to actually walk the course herself, we were doing the Tarrant County Race. It’s more difficult than the Dallas race as the streets are not level and there are some rather steep and challenging hills on this particular course. For my mom’s age and level of health, it was really challenging.
I told her not to worry about it…that we would walk at her pace and we could stop as many times as she wanted and to not worry about it…we would just enjoy it. At first, she really did. But she got winded a few times and it started to really psych her out. At one point, about halfway through the race, she needed to stop and she was visibly upset. I told her to just sit down and breathe and relax and I asked her why she was so distressed. She looked at me with VERY worried eyes and said “What if I can’t finish?” So THAT was it. She just got overwhelmed…and I think she was afraid that I would be disappointed in her somehow. I just grinned at her.
“Mom…if you can’t finish…you’ll sit down and prop your feet up right here and I’ll go get the car and pick you up.” She looked slightly stricken by that thought and I laughed. “It’s not a big deal. You’d have to wait a little bit for me to get to the car and get back over here to you through the traffic…but it wouldn’t be a big deal.”
“I just wouldn’t want you to have to do that.” She said. “I just don’t know if I should have tried this.” She looked so worried and so overwhelmed at that moment. I sat down beside her on the cement ledge we’d found for her to rest on.
“Mom. You beat breast cancer and survived a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery. This is nothing. You can do this. But if you are not comfortable and you can’t finish…nobody is going to hold that against you. You did a lot more than a lot of people did. You paid your registration fee, you raised money for a good cause, you showed up, and you tried. If you were to stop right here…and I went and got the car and drove you home…I still couldn’t be more proud of you for the effort you’ve already made. Some people spend their whole lives never doing anything for other people. Here you are after surviving all of your health issues…and you’re HERE. Showing other people that this disease CAN be beaten…and raising money to help others beat it too. You were a hero before you even got out of bed this morning. There is absolutely no one who would be disappointed in you if this was where your day ended for today. I would be proud of you no matter what.”
She got teary eyed. So did I. After a couple more minutes, she got up and said “Come on…let’s go.” I asked “Are you sure?” and she said “Yep” with a very determined face. We kept walking. We stopped several more times. We attacked a really steep hill and I got behind her and pushed and she laughed…so did others that walked with us. When we turned a corner about 4-5 blocks from the finish line and she saw it…she was a whole new person. She sped up…she held her head up…and she was grinning like a fool. So was I. She finished that race…and I could not have been more proud of her. Not only did she finish the race…she overcame all the fear that was holding her back that day and all the doubt that made her think she couldn’t do it.
Not a day goes by that I’m not proud of my mother. Whether she’s walking her first 5k…or sitting on the couch holding my grandson. She’s taught me more by example than most people in my life taught me when that was their sole intention. I’m a better person because of her. I only hope that I can inspire that in other people the way she has in me.
If you ever think that those around you are not looking to you for an example of how to live…or not live…their life, think again. And act accordingly. You never know who you might be inspiring.