The air snapped crisp as a freshly picked apple. The night’s storm had broken; clouds parted, skies opened.
We walked before, but never like this.
On October 17th, my mom and I walked – three years to the day from the cleaving, the day I shaved her head. I remember when she said she wanted to take this walk with me – as I swept her hair from the bathroom tile floor.
We headed to the Sam’s Club Marketplace parking lot for the Walk for Hope event. Approaching tires sliced through the night’s resting rain, releasing a mist of glistening diamonds above the glossy road. A harvest of spicy color lined the streets; gold trees lit our way with their glow. We felt the flourish of life – in the celebrating, in the remembering. As the sun peaked through, shadows leaned long across the road. I focused on the light rather than the shadows.
We made our way into the flood of cars in the parking lot. My fingers felt the satin’s smooth finish as I adjusted her SURVIVOR sash, her medal of honor, before we weaved our way towards the starting line where nearly 900 pink-dressed hopefuls prepared to walk for breast cancer. The early morning’s downpour could not threaten to dampen our spirits.
Some arrived with bald heads, SURVIVOR sashes and brave hearts. Others dressed in pink tutus, polar fleece and fuchsia hair. Even dogs donned duds in honor of their humans. Uncontainable optimism buoyed high in the sky like the buoyant bundles of pink balloons.
We walked a road united as strangers and loved ones, sporting smiles and giving hugs. Exuberant bursts of laughter surrounded us while others tenderly consoled heavy hearts. A ribbon of pink people wove down into the valley and crowned the crest ahead of us.
Bearded men sported pink shirts and hats. Boys skipped around in sweatshirts of pink. Mothers wrapped strollered babies in pink blankets.
A family ahead of us told their story with the words on their backs: “I am walking for my WIFE,” I am walking for my MOTHER,” “I am walking for my MOTHER-IN-LAW.” Two little ones shared their words on the back of their T-shirts: “I am walking for my NANNIE.” This family enveloped the woman with the “I am a SURVIVOR” declaration on her back.
We braved the cold knowing we will never forget how cancer changed us. With chilled ears, runny noses and warm hearts, my mom and I bundled with arms linked, to walk together.
Today is the first of many steps. We know this is not a race, but a journey.