Josh would have turned eleven this March. Each year on Josh’s birthday, Courtney and I celebrate by remaining committed to spending the day together. Although I would have preferred a bit more sunshine, the rays we received as we floated the Yellowstone made me pause and give thanks for each shared moment.
Later that same week we celebrated Emma’s birthday. It was full of energy, family, and hot springs. It also brought the first family photo without Mom. Looking at my smile it reminds me of the first few photos after losing Josh and not feeling like smiling, yet knowing it was what others were expecting of me. To me grief feels like I am treading water, but the whole time being aware the current is moving me downstream.
To say the least, the last few months have been a bit jumbly. I only realized May was quickly approaching when I received a retail store email giving me the option to opt out of their Mother’s Day notifications. Out of habit, I swiped delete. As I sat with my choice, I realized, like all firsts for the next year, this will be a different Mother’s Day. She was an amazingly graceful mother. Every moment, truly, she was present and loving. When we transitioned Mom to hospice, I was able to be home almost the entire month of January thanks to FMLA leave and loving support from Courtney who picked up all parenting duties including explaining loss to Emma. He not only understood my need to be with Mom, but encouraged me to be in each moment.
I can count on a single hand the number of times I witnessed Mom being angry. I remember her always finding ways and words to carry her point without having to yell or shout. As a child (and as an adult), I knew when I had disappointed Mom, but she never made me feel like less of a person for the choices I made. She carried this same ability when teaching me about politics, education, and religion. I am trying to model this same tolerance when I am with Emma. Too often, I get upset with her for something trivial. Emma sees everything and soaks in the good with the bad not fully understanding one from the other. I am trying to be a better parent, but have a lot left to learn. It is in this learning that I find myself deeply grieving for the teacher we lost when Mom died.
During the final month we spent together, our days ran together. Our agenda revolving solely on Mom’s needs and being aware as we lost more of her each day. In December, Courtney and I registered for the Queen Bee Montana Marathon. My training calendar had me starting training in January, but I pushed it back because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house fearful Mom would pass while I was running. It was the same anxiousness I had when I was home with Josh and I would run in circles around our neighborhood afraid I would be unable to get home in time. I remember a run when the CNA called to say I should come back. My friend Amy and I sprinted frantically through the alleyways in attempts to shorten the distance. I distinctly remember feeling selfish for leaving him and being angry at my inability to run faster.
The similarities between grief and running makes it an obvious analogy. There are some weeks I can manage the miles and others that the path seems too daunting. I shared with someone that my multitask ability is broken. Things that used to be manageable now seem too hard. Instead of dealing with it or working through my to do list, I go to sleep to avoid having to think. Reading back through my post about the day Josh died, Support for the Journey, I remember feeling detached from the moment. That it couldn’t be real. Somehow I would shake from my slumber to arrive in reality – he would still be sick, but I would be able to hold him. Now, almost three months after Mom passed, I replay our final hours with her and find myself shaking, but unable to wake. I miss her voice, her hugs, her.
A few weeks ago I simply gave up attempting to log my weekly training miles. I convinced myself that a break was what my body needed. Although taking a pause was not the best training option, it helped me realize the role running plays in my healing. I was asked recently “what do you do to relieve stress?” I responded that I run and I write about grief. For both of these to work I need to keep logging my miles.
I am thankful for my running friends who have become some of my closest friends. They have helped me process my grief and have pushed me to keep moving. On May 7th, the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation hosts a “Move for Parkinson’s Run.” This weekend, we laced up and logged our miles wearing purple in tribute to Mom and the foundation that gave her hope and support for her journey.
Our lives are full of paths and trails. There are some we can train for and others we learn to navigate once we are placed upon them.
I never would have imagined my life path would include losing Josh before his second birthday.
I never would have been able to imagine the joy Courtney and I share walking the road as Emma’s parents.
I never would have imagined I would be left navigating the trails of motherhood without my mother.
For now, I will keep logging the miles: some solo, some with loved ones. I will keep listening to my body when it calls for rest. I will keep writing for Josh, for Mom, for me.
Thank you for logging these miles with me.
Here is to another day together.