This past weekend, on the five year anniversary weekend of your heart attack, I ran a 5k for the very first time in my life.
It was five years to the day since I received the phone call. Dad called me on Sunday March 13, 2011, and on Sunday March 13, 2016, my legs, and my heart, ran me five kilometers without stopping.
I did a 5k back in September, La Parisienne, but I walked most of it.
This was the first time I ran pretty much the whole thing.
Albeit slowly, but I did it.
I almost didn’t though. It’s so funny, Mom, how the voices in one’s head can keep you from doing something. I signed up, but wasn’t really sure I would do it. Even though I’ve been jogging once a week for the past couple of years, I haven’t been doing it for the past two months, because of winter and cold and illnesses. So I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it.
But I decided to give it a try, giving myself permission to do as much as I could.
Then, when the race started, there was no set starting line, and I was fiddling so much with my music that I found myself at the end.
Which meant that, instead of the calm slow start I was hoping for, I was frantically running to not stray to far behind.
My heart was pounding and I was already out of breath, a minute into the race.
I felt panicky.
The voices started up again. What’s the point, let’s back out now, go back home, we will try again next year.
Then a funny thing happened. I noticed a guy a few steps ahead of me, trotting even slower than my pace. He was really pacing himself. He was wearing a local running club shirt, but he was far slower than everyone else.
I decided to match my pace to his, and I told myself, I’ll just do this for a little while, following along with this guy, and I can always stop later.
So I followed a few steps behind him, and then I passed him, and I wasn’t the last one, and I lost track of him, and I don’t know who that guy was, but if I ever see him again, I would like to thank him, because if he hadn’t been in the pack, I am certain I would have given up right at the start.
What happened was, it was really, really, really hard, and I started to think about my body, and how amazing it was that it was doing this. My forty-one year old body was running, running, running. My strong legs were carrying me. My lungs were oxygenating my limbs. And my heart, my heart, it was pumping. It was working. It was working really hard, carrying me through the streets of this town that we moved to just after you went, that you never got to visit us in.
Five years to the day after your heart stopped functioning properly, mine was beating loudly, overtime, doing its job, and doing it amazingly well.
Almost one year ago, I felt my chest hurt. I felt pain shoot down my left arm. I went to the doctor and in a panic she sent me to the hospital and I spent a scary night there. I thought my heart was stopping. I thought I was going to be pulled from my children the way you were pulled from me.
The terror I felt for a few hours was unimaginable. Did you feel that way too, Mom, when you were lying in the hospital? Did you know you were going to be pulled away from all of us? Did you feel the same anguish I did or were you more accepting, knowing that you had raised your child and had had a good life?
If you want to look at it from a psychological point of view, I think that I was missing you. I have reflected a lot over this past year, of how close I felt to you, almost symbiotic. Which was a wonderful thing of course, I’m not saying the contrary. The closeness we shared was wonderful and special and it means that you are in my heart, still.
They ran all kinds of tests on me. A rather handsome French cardiologist came in the night, pressed an ultrasound probe to my breasts, and stared intently at his screen. You know what, Mom?
It turns out I have an extremely strong and healthy heart. Whatever the chest pains were, it wasn’t my heart that was failing. It was strong, and it is strong, as evidenced by it powering my body over five kilometers this past weekend.
It means that your heart took you from me, and from this earthly plane, but my heart will keep me here, to live.
Five years on, I often feel a pang of what could have been, had you just simply lived. How you could have been a part of my kids’ lives. What an amazing experience that would have been! Of course in that alternate universe I would never have known any other world, never have known the difference.
There’s a ceremony I read about recently, about letting go of loved ones, so that they may live. Even if it is for the living, I’m going to do it with you. I know now that I will never get past the longing for that other life, the one where you lived. I have known that for a while, but what I also know now, is that it’s ok.
In fact, one might say, it’s even Life.
Next week is the first week of spring, the poignancy once again flowing over me, that you left in this season of newness, where everything was starting again. You returned to the earth as it was renewing itself, as it always does, reminding us that even in death, there is always
I love you Mom, and I miss you.