Monday, July 28, 2014

The Longest Ride

Well, I've been gone for quite a while.

I haven't really known what to say.  Things have been a bit of a blur since late-April, and then they got better, and then they got worse, and then they were over. And we're still adjusting.  We'll never truly adjust, as anyone who has lost a parent knows.  I don't know; I haven't lost a parent. But Matt has, and Linda was a wonderful wife of 40 years as of May 11, grandmother to 6 (about to be 7), mother to three amazing children, and mother-in-law to me.  After almost five years, Linda lost her battle to cancer on July 9.

From what I'm gathering, losing a parent leaves a hole in your heart that is so painful and never, ever able to be replaced.  You never will get over this.  You never will move on; you will simply try to adjust and wake up and know the sun will rise again.  Just without her. And it will just come in waves, at the strangest times, and you'll feel that choking feeling in your throat and your eyes well up, but you just have to keep going somehow.

I was pregnant with Emery when Linda was rushed to the hospital on our anniversary: August 7, 2009.  The diagnosis? Stage 4 uterine cancer.  They did everything they could; they took out everything they could.  But it was everywhere.  There was only so much they could do.  Everything I read said "12-36 months." We were devastated.

She anted up.

She took every single medicine they threw at her. No matter what it did to her poor body. She didn't care.  She didn't complain.  The only thing, and I mean the ONLY thing, she ever said in five years of chemotherapy, medicines, ports, and other assorted horribleness?

"I'm a little tired."

That's all she ever said. 

She wore her wig just once; for Dan's wedding a year ago yesterday in Mexico.  And after that picture was snapped, she put her hat back on. 

We decided to bury her in her hat.  She always looked so cute in her hats.

She beat every single statistic and odd out there.  The doctors and nurses were amazed.  She fought so bravely and so hard.

Not too many people can say they met their mother-in-law when they were 6, but that’s how it went for me.  My earliest memory of Linda was in first grade, when she was the room mother for my now brother-in-law, Dan, who was in my class.  Little tiny Kim was always on her hip. 

Linda was the kind of person who was absolutely selfless.  She cared first about others, all the time.  She had a dry and witty sense of humor, too.  We’d just crack up all the time.  She was always throwing in one-liners and zingers that were hilarious.  She loved Elvis. She hated squirrels and would throw potatoes at them when they tried to bust through her kitchen window screen.  She was an amazing cook.  She loved her family more than anything in the entire universe. She could remember any single historical event, what she was wearing, and what song was on the radio when it happened.

I keep remembering random things at random times, but usually when I’m running and biking and swimming.  Because it’s alone time, and it’s when I think.

I remember how she whispered in my ear at my wedding, “I’ve been waiting for this since Homecoming!” when Matt took me to Homecoming Dance in 1993.

I remember how good her stuffing is at Thanksgiving.  Oh my gosh, it’s amazing.  I didn’t get the recipe from her.  I should have.  She never wrote any recipes down; she just did everything by scratch and memory.  And then I feel the welt in my throat again.

I remember how her body was wrecked from fighting the initial chemo battle but she simply did not care: no matter what, she was going to stay up all night to see her new granddaughter born at 4:15am on February 21, 2010.  Nothing would stop her from being there.

And I remember that Matt and I are going to need to work hard to keep her memory alive for our children.  Jackson is 6 1/2.  Emery is 4.  If we don’t work at it, their memories will fade.  And that crushes me. 

Most notably, I remember her courage, grace, and strength, as I dropped off meals to her weekly and as we all rallied around her.  She was the matriarch of the family; she will be missed more than I can explain in words.  And my heart aches for my husband as he tries to move forward into this unknown with a piece of his heart, forever gone.  The lessons she showed us in her short 63 years were nothing short of amazing. 

You want endurance?  You think Ironman is tough?

I am here to tell you that it is nothing.  Linda was tougher, more persistent, more inspirational, and more courageous than any athlete I’ve ever known in my life, and her battle was longer and more difficult than any race you can imagine.

My training and racing lately has been a time for me to find peace, and think about what it is in my life.  As I stood on the beach on Sunday for my first triathlon of the season, and first race since Linda left us, I prayed, “God, let me enjoy this race and any pain I feel and just remember to feel alive and well and grateful.”  

That’s really, to me, what racing and training is.  A reminder that life is a gift, pain is a lesson, true courage is in grace, and strength comes from within.

That is what Linda taught me.  That is how I will try to move forward.


Mike said...

Sounds like your mother was the kindest Warrior one could ever meet. May you find peace in the fact that her body and soul has found peace and while not with you in body, she's with you in spirit.

We are all guided by a light we cannot see, may that light live on with you and your family. That light will guide all of us home some day.

Lara Jones said...

My first ever tri will always be linked to the death
of my uncle. This piece brought a lot of memories back and I will remember you and your family in my thoughts tonight.

A lovely, stirring post

Brent Buckner said...

Touching tribute. My condolences, and I'm glad Matt has you with him.