Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Show Me the Beauty

I hesitate to share this story for two reasons: 1) I don’t want to come across as a saint. 2) I don’t want to come across as an uncompassionate clod. But here it is…

As you may recall, Allyson and I had been intermittently visiting a couple, Jack and Jeanne, whom we met at a local nursing home. I got to know Jack especially well while transcribing his autobiography—one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

They so loved having visitors, and Jeanne utterly adored Allyson, so I tried to get out for a visit now and then, but not nearly so often as I should have. After a particularly long absence, we found that Jack had passed away. My heart was pierced for Jeanne, whose dementia made it hard for her to remember why he was gone and why he never came back. I resolved to visit her much more often, but I seldom made the time to drive out there, even when Allyson reminded me that we really ought to visit Miss Jeanne.

I’m not sure how long it had been—months, I’m sure—but we finally went out to the nursing home last Wednesday. Someone else was in her room. My heart sank when I learned that she’d passed away just a couple Fridays ago. Oh, why didn’t we visit more often?

But I have to confess that a tiny part of me—the little part—felt relieved. I was sorry she was gone, but relieved that I wouldn’t have to make time for trips to the nursing home, or feel guilty about not making the time. I tugged Allyson’s hand and started for the front door.

But another part of me immediately said, “No, no!” And that bigger part of me pulled me over to the information desk. I waited in uncomfortable silence for what seemed a very long time until one of the staff members acknowledged me.

I explained how Allyson and I had been visiting Jack and Jeanne, and how much they’d enjoyed seeing Allyson. I cleared my throat. “Can you think of another resident who might enjoy our company, someone who doesn’t get many visitors?”

The nurse rubbed her chin and then replied, “Well, yes. I guess you could visit Jackie in room 54.”

And that’s how Allyson and I ended up on our new mission, armed with only a first name and a room number. My heart pounded as we walked down the long hall. What would I say to this stranger? Would she think it rude of us to barge in? I said a quick prayer asking God for courage and for the right words.

Jackie was nothing like I expected. She was quite young, maybe in her 50s. “Are you Jackie?” I stammered.

She nodded and mumbled something unintelligible.

I ignored the heat in my cheeks and plowed on. “Hi, I’m Sarah, and this is Allyson. We…”

“Ohh!” Jackie exclaimed, reaching one hand toward Allyson. “She’s uh-DOR-bul.”

“Thank you,” I said.

She wiped some slobber off her chin, and I looked away. “I’m sorry,” she said.

I leaned closer, trying to decipher her slurred speech. “Pardon?”

“I’m sorry.”

I felt myself turning even redder. I waved my hand, brushing away her apology. “No problem,” I mumbled.

Allyson hid behind my leg and stared at the floor.

“What’s she afraid of?” Jackie asked, and then repeated herself so I could understand.

“Oh, she’s just shy,” I said, brushing a knuckle over Allyson’s cheek. I stared at the ceiling, wondering what I could possibly say to this stranger.

“Allyson’s in Kindergarten this year. She’s learning to read. And she loves to draw,” I said.

“Oh,” said Jackie.

Allyson nodded and beamed.

“She’s getting very good at drawing because she practices so much,” I went on. “Her favorite thing to draw is birds.”

Jackie’s face lit up, and I understood her next words perfectly. “Oh, I love birds!”

“Allyson loves to draw owls and robins. What’s your favorite bird?”

“I like d-doves.”

I turned to Allyson. “Do you think you could draw a dove for Miss Jackie?”


“And maybe we can get a book about birds and you could read it to her.”


I promised Jackie we’d return in two days, after Thanksgiving. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you!”

I felt humbled and almost guilty about her gratitude over our very brief visit and the promise of a dove picture.

We headed straight to the library for a birding guide, and Allyson drew an astonishingly good dove as soon as we got home. (Wish I’d thought to take a picture.) For the next two days, she kept reminding me that we mustn’t forget to go see Miss Jackie on Friday.

On Friday we presented her with Allyson’s picture and a Happy Thanksgiving note she’d carefully lettered. And then Allyson sat on the bed next to Jackie and read her a book about birds, with lovely prints of various species.

This time, Jackie not only thanked us, but she gathered both of us into tight bear hugs. Again I felt unworthy of such profuse gratitude.

On the way home, I felt even less worthy when Allyson gave voice to my own thoughts. “It really stinks in there.”

“Yes, honey. Sometimes people have trouble controlling their bladder when they get old or weak. That’s just how most nursing homes smell.”

“Yes, but it smelled worse in Miss Jackie’s room. Do you think it was Miss Jackie?”

“I don’t know, baby. Just try not to think about it. Definitely don’t ever say that you think it stinks, or you’ll hurt her feelings.”

As soon as I had a chance to be alone with God, I poured out all my ugly feelings. I confessed that I don’t really WANT to go to the nursing home every week even though I feel that I should, and not just because I’m too busy. I complained that I feel awkward because I can’t understand her, and I feel uncomfortable looking at her—or not looking at her.

“Help me to see Jackie as you see her,” I pleaded. “Help me see the beauty in her. And help me to really LOVE her. I don’t want to just do good deeds because I know you expect me to. I want to be kind to her out of love. I want to fall in love with her and take delight in spending time with her.”

I didn’t give much more thought to Jackie until this evening, when I arrived at Bible study (Margaret Feinberg’s Verbs of God). Our study leader, Roberta, asked what I thought of this week’s lesson: God Calls. I admitted that I hadn’t even looked at the study since Bill’s been out of town and it’s all I can do to hold our family’s routine together. “Is it about God calling Samuel?” I asked.

“Ah, ‘Here I am LORD, your servant is listening’? No. It’s about Jesus calling the disciples.” She said she hoped that the ladies would be able to recognize how God is calling us in our daily lives, and that we would respond as the disciples did, by following Jesus.

Are you calling me, God? I thought. I heard one word in reply. Jackie.

Is this really my calling right now? I wondered. Or is this just something I stumbled onto?

I didn’t have to wait long for my confirmation. We started the study with a video about a woman who went on a mission trip to an Asian orphanage. The video cut to pictures of a baby in a crib, a baby with a horrendously deformed face. She had not only a cleft palate and cleft lip, but also a cleft face. A red crevice ran diagonally across her entire right cheek, her nose was in the wrong place, and her blind left eye bulged from its socket.

You could hear the sharp intake of breath as many of us gasped in unison. The woman explained how she was drawn to this baby who had no chance of a normal life. “All I saw when I looked at her was beauty,” she said. “I knew I had to help this child.”

I sobbed quietly as this woman recited back my own prayers to me. And I let the tears fall as she described her experiences with just holding this baby and loving her. “Help me love that way,” I prayed.

The missionary didn’t just give the baby a few hugs and go on her way. No, she refused to give up. She found a surgeon who could rebuild her face, and she went through all the red tape of a foreign adoption. Three and a half years after she met the baby, she took her home to America.

Tomorrow Allyson and I will visit Jackie again. We’ll bring her coleslaw, her favorite food, and Allyson will read her another story, probably about birds. And I will probably feel awkward, but I’m praying that God will go with me, and that He will let me feel his heart for Jackie. And maybe we will all begin to fall in love.

Please keep us in your prayers. Specifically, I need God to show me ways to make Jackie feel loved. Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Halloween Pictures... Just in Time for Thanksgiving

I figure I ought to post the Halloween pictures before we hit another major holiday. Since I have a cold and I'm tired, I've resolved to just post the pictures this time. No stories! Let's see if I can pull that off.

Friday 10/28/11
Allyson getting ready for school, dressed up as a favorite story book character...

Don't you just want to pinch her cheeks?

Sunday 10/30/11

Jack O' Lanterns - Bill's, Allyson's, Ethan's (which he traced and carved all on his own)...

Halloween Night
I cringed when Bill cut up one of my old suit jackets for Ethan's hobo costume. Bill rubbed my back and spoke in soothing tones. "It's o-kay. You have enough clothes to wear." I protested that I wasn't worried about having enough clothes; it was just that I had that jacket in the Goodwill pile. Bill said no one would miss my out-of-style suit.

I have to admit it worked pretty well for Ethan's costume. See the soot on his cheeks and shirt? Bill practically had to hold him down in order to rub that on him. When did he suddenly become a clean freak?

Ready to go...

Allyson and I went out with Ethan and the neighbors across the street, our usual trick-or-treat buddies. After only a couple of blocks, Allyson announced that she had more candy than she needed (!), and she asked to go home and hand out candy with Daddy. Ethan stayed out another hour or so and came home with about five pounds of candy.

Sifting through her loot...

Looks like she got a yucky candy...

The highlight of my evening had to be eating a piece of pumpkin pie, freshly made from a pumpkin I'd roasted the night before, with a crust I made myself, topped with freshly whipped cream. YUM!!!

There, I did it. Pretty much. Those weren't stories, right? More like captions. Happy late Halloween to you, and happy early Thanksgiving too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

That's My Boy on the Jumbo-Tron

As I mentioned in my last entry, Ethan's school football team had a playoff game on Saturday. That in itself was pretty exciting since they were expected to have a losing season. But the most exciting part was the venue: the ridiculously monstrous and elaborate Dallas Cowboys Stadium! Among other things, I'm told it has the heaviest electronic door in the world, plus the largest retractable roof.

Since the game prices are about as big as the stadium, this was our best chance at getting inside (though Bill had already toured it once with his parents). We got tickets to the playoff game for just $8 each, including two for my parents. Both Mom and Dad were very excited to see the stadium, and of course to hear Ethan's band play in the halftime show.

Although I had seen the pictures from Bill's tour, I still caught my breath when we first walked in and looked down on the field.

After a bit of gawking, we settled into the blue cushioned seats and watched Ethan's team get trounced. They didn't score a single point, though they had some maddeningly close chances. While we watched, Allyson bought some $5 cotton candy (with some help from Grandma), and then chased that down with a $5 bottle of 7-Up.

The halftime show, at least, did not disappoint. I could just make out Ethan behind the chimes, and now and then I could hear him playing.

Luckily, there was a Jumbo-Tron that Bill estimated to be twice as wide as our house. Can you spot Ethan in the bottom left corner, between the chimes and the big bass drum?

Yes, it's just the back of his head, but how many people can say they've seen their son on the Jumbo-Tron at the Cowboys Stadium? Pretty cool, huh? (It looks like he was looking up at himself on the giant screen.)

After the game, we hung around trying to get Ethan's attention. When he spotted me and Bill, he gave the subtlest wave, just a wiggling of his fingers. He almost smiled but caught himself just in time. When Mom and Dad stepped down to the railing, I figured I should warn them not to expect much acknowledgement.

But Ethan gave each of them a full wave AND a big grin! I hope it warmed their hearts as much as it did mine. It was a great experience, one that many of those kids might talk about for the rest of their lives, or at least all weekend. Ethan did, at least.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Smelly Dog, Smelly Dog... What Are They Feeding You?

Remember that time I just about killed our dog Lola when Bill went out of town and left her in my care? Well, I probably should have disclosed that story to our neighbors when they asked if I could take care of their dog, cat, and fish while they went on vacation.

The first day, Friday, went very well. I almost forgot to go over that morning, but remembered by 9:00 or so. No harm done. But Zeus, a beautiful German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, looked pretty mournful. I asked him if he wanted to come play with Lola, whom he'd met the night before, but he just cowered on his bed in the master bathroom. "I'll be back this afternoon," I promised as I pulled the door almost closed--just the way I'd found it when I arrived.

True to my word, I came back after work and brought Zeus over to our backyard. Lola was ecstatic. She circled Zeus, did lots of sniffing (I won't say where), and basically dogged his every step. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)
Lola on Left, Zeus on Right

Zeus endured her enthusiasm patiently as he methodically explored the backyard. On the way back to the neighbors' house a couple hours later, I marveled at how well behaved Zeus was on the leash. Not only was there no pressure on the leash ever, but he also stopped and waited politely whenever I fell behind.

On Saturday morning, all still seemed well. I mounded up the food in Zeus's bowl and watched with satisfaction as he gulped it greedily. Next, Allyson and I played with the cat for a few minutes before heading off to Ethan's football playoff game (more on that later).

Everything was wonderful until Sunday afternoon, when I was hosting a little gathering for my missionary friend, Melissa. While I sat and nibbled meatballs and finger-sized desserts with my friends, I sent Bill over to pick up Zeus for a playdate. Noting that he was gone an exceedingly long time, I figured he'd put his feet up on their couch and was enjoying the peace and quiet.

When he returned without the dog nearly an hour later, I mouthed, "Where's the...?"

He just shook his head, pressing his lips together tightly, as he passed through the living room. Once the party was wrapping up, he beckoned me to the kitchen and quietly debriefed me.

"That dog is SICK," he informed me.

"Oh no! What's wrong?"

"There was crap and puke all over the bathroom, and some in the bedroom too. That's why I was gone so long."

"Oh no! You had to clean it up?"

He shrugged. "Well, I couldn't leave it there, could I? I wiped everything down with bleach spray and put the dog in the backyard until the fumes dissipate."

[Is my husband a saint, or what? But if you've read this blog long, you already knew that.]

Back at the neighbors' house that evening, I thought about how Zeus had polished off two full bowls of food each day. Was I overfeeding him? Elizabeth had assured me that he self feeds, so I should just give him a full bowl. Maybe he was overeating because he felt insecure without his owners, I reasoned.

I gave him just a tiny bit more food and closed him in the bathroom, this time shutting the door tightly. "I hope you feel better, Zeus." I called over my shoulder.

This morning there were four more piles of diarrhea in the bathroom. Ugh! I needed to run an errand before work, so I put Zeus in the yard and left the mess to deal with later.

About 3:30 this afternoon, later rolled around. I took a deep breath of clean air and asked Bill for pointers on cleaning up the mess, which thankfully was limited to the bathroom tile this time.

"Just mop it up with paper towels and spray the heck out of it with bleach spray," he advised.

I thanked him and asked if he could run to the store for me to pick up some cream cheese I needed for the meatball sub casserole I planned to make with leftover meatballs from yesterday's party.

"The store?" Bill groaned. "I don't feel like going to the store."

"Oh, and the bank," I added. "I didn't get to go on Friday because of Veterans' Day, so we need money before you can go to the store."

"Never mind," Bill grumped. "I'll go take care of the mess and you go to the bank."
I tilted my head and studied him, my eyebrows scrunched in disbelief. "You mean to tell me you'd rather clean up dog crap than go to the bank?"

He shrugged. "I don't feel like going to the bank."

"Suit yourself," I said, traipsing off to the bank with a spring in my step.

While I was in line at the bank, my cell phone rang. It was Bill. "Did you say you were feeding the dog out of the little bag inside the big plastic bin?"

"Ye-es," I answered cautiously.

"The one with the picture of the cat on the front?"

I put a hand over my mouth and rolled my eyes up at the ceiling. "Oh my gosh..."

"The bag that says, 'Specially formulated to prevent hairballs'?" he continued.

"No way. Oh my gosh."

Now for all you dog (and cat) lovers out there, be assured that I do realize this is NOT funny. Not at all. I don't think either Bill or Zeus saw any humor in the situation. But I couldn't help laughing at myself, howling actually, right there in the teller line. "I swear it said dog food when I looked at it on Friday," I choked out as tears streamed down both cheeks. "I just don't understand how-"

"You are something else, woman!"

"I gotta go," I said. "Talk to you later."

The two tellers in earshot were intrigued, so I told them the whole sad story. All three of us laughed ourselves silly. "Oh that poor dog," my teller said ruefully.

"Yes, poor dog," I repeated, thinking back to how I'd been congratulating myself for winning Zeus's trust--all the while trying to poison him with cat food! (Speaking of the cat, Charlie scarcely ate any of the dog food I mounded up in the bowl. Hopefully she suffered no ill effects.)

After eating some of his actual food (the big pieces of food in the giant plastic bin, as opposed to the tiny pieces of food in the little bag), Zeus seemed quite chipper. He stayed with Lola in our yard until Shawn came for him just before dinner.

Shawn listened to the whole story quite graciously, but I rather doubt I'll be asked to keep those pets again. Can you blame him?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Still Rejoicing

Yesterday morning, Gentle and I woke up around 4:45 to cram all our stuff, including air mattresses and sleeping bags, into our duffle bags. Then we had to figure out how to tear down the tent and stuff it into its impossibly tiny bag. Luckily Gentle has a lot more patience than I do.

We had breakfast, put on considerably fewer layers than the two prior days, and lined up to board a bus to the drop-off point for the day.
Fellow Walkers

As I took those first few steps on my aching feet, the hours stretched long ahead of me, but then I glimpsed the hat of the woman in front of me:

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD"
The first tears of the day welled up. I could have kissed that stranger. Instead, I laid a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you," I said. "I really needed that verse this morning."

The morning was pleasant. I savored the breeze on my bare arms and legs, but I didn't like the look of the heavy gray sky. I politely asked God if He'd mind holding back the rain for us, but told Him I'd praise Him and rely on Him to help us through it either way.

We walked through a gorgeous neighborhood, Highland Park, where I had an aching longing to walk on the cushy grass instead of the hard sidewalk. But I stayed on the straight and narrow (most of the time). Ah, that grass felt so good when I had to step aside to pass or be passed.

Around mile five I started feeling a telltale hot spot on the ball of my left foot. I sat down in some of that cushy grass and applied another strip of moleskin. At the next rest stop, I added yet another strip. But apparently I missed the target by about a millimeter because by the last pit stop, I had my very first blister! Nooooo!!!

Sorry, Couldn't Help Myself. Can You See It? 
Gentle gave me a blister band-aid and I put on two more strips of moleskin over top of it, right up to the base of my toes. Those last five miles hurt so much more knowing there was a blister there.

More than ever, I relied on the love and support of the spectators to give me the courage to keep walking. I was thankful for:

  • The passing sweep vans with their crazy decorations and loud music. (They continually circled to pick up exhausted and injured walkers who needed a lift.)
  • The "walker stalkers," friends and family who shadowed the route to give out Kleenex, gum, handi wipes, and even champagne to not only their own walkers but to anyone else who passed by. 
The Craziest Walker-Stalkers

  • The neighborhood residents who handed out donuts and kolaches and thank-yous.
  • The double rows of encouragers at each cheering station.
  • The safety crew members who told us how many miles to the next stop as they helped us across the intersections.
  • The amazingly kind and supportive Dallas officers who worked the biggest intersections. I was moved to tears by one officer who told us about his wife, a ten-year survivor. 
  • The costumed dogs that never failed to make me smile. 

  • The inspiring words and scriptures on posters, on the backs of T-shirts, and on signs pinned to backpacks. 

  • The fact that the rain held off until we entered the grounds of the closing ceremony site (Fair Park). Thank you, thank you, God!
  • The constant company of my sweet friend Gentle.

Manicure by Gentle, Gloves from Bill's Mom

I think Gentle was hurting about as bad as I was, or maybe worse. I don't know if I ever told that you she broke her toe about five weeks before the walk. She was supposed to be in her boot until just before the event, but she was able to take it off and resume training the last couple of weeks. Still, she missed about a month of crucial training, so I was amazed at her fortitude. We praise God that He healed her toe and gave her the strength to keep walking.

We walked the last two miles mostly in silence. I tried to take in all the sights around me and enjoy those last steps even though my feet were NOT HAPPY AT ALL. Still, I knew I would be sorry for the journey to end. 

Periodically we were forced to speak when people questioned us about our Five Finger Shoes. On the first two days, we raved about them: "Yes, we've been wearing them the whole way. Yes, they are quite comfortable. No, they don't provide any support or cushioning; that's the whole point. No, we don't have any blisters." 
Mine on Left, Gentle's on Right

But by the end of day three, our typical answer was. "Fabulous. Just fabulous." 

I really was amazed that my tired feet could support themselves without all the padding of traditional shoes, and that in fact I seemed less sore and less blistered than the other walkers. I think if your arches can support themselves for 60 miles, you really don't need expensive, high-tech shoes. God is the most ingenious designer!

But I digress.... One of my favorite crossing guards, a Harley rider who always greeted us with a giant grin, warned us about the finish line: "You WILL cry." 

I figured I would, but I wasn't prepared for the onslaught of emotion as I walked the last 300 yards or so. On either side, families and other walkers who'd finished earlier shouted and clapped and grabbed our hands. "Way to go! You did it! Thank you for walking!" 

I looked left and right, wishing Laura could be there to fold us in a group hug as she'd planned. I wanted her there walking beside me, taking in all this praise that I didn't deserve. She was the real hero! I remembered one of my favorite pictures of her crossing the finish line at Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure:

As I pictured that amazing grin, my happy tears turned into sobs. It was the kind of crying you don't really want to share with strangers, ugly and snotty and embarrassing. 

I wasn't sure why I was crying. I was overwhelmed by joy, triumph, relief, sorrow, exhaustion, and loss. Just when I thought I couldn't bear another moment, a woman stepped out of the line on my left and pulled me into a tight hug. I clung to her for several seconds, wiped away my tears, and raised both arms in triumph as I crossed into the holding area. 

As we paraded up to the closing ceremony, I strained to spot my family in the crowd, but there were just too many people. Bill did catch a glimpse of me, though. When I met them in the baggage recovery area, I was delighted to see that my mom had come along. I squeezed them all tight and then trudged a long, long way to the car, chattering the whole way. 

At home I was thrilled to find a welcome home poster on the door, laboriously lettered by Allyson. "Walking for Laura.... 60 miles... 11.... Way to go!... I think you did a good job." In the middle was a darling picture of me and Gentle walking on a long path. 

On the table were six pink roses and a touching card from Bill. Soon after, Bill served us fettucini alfredo--delicious! 

After dinner, he urged me to go up and soak in the tub. I went up to find the (clean) bathtub lined with candles. There was an assortment of bubble baths and mineral salts, and my robe hung from the towel rack. I felt so loved as I sank into that warm water and let the day's aches melt away. 

The bath probably wasn't as relaxing as Bill had envisioned because two minutes into it, Allyson bounded in. "Can I get in with you?" I hesitated for just a moment and then opened my arms. So we soaked together. And splashed. And got water everywhere. But it was all good. I was right where I wanted to be. 

Thank you to everyone for your love and support. I love you guys!

P.S. Before she went home last night, Mom prayed that my blister would heal while I slept and that I would "jump out of bed rejoicing." And that's exactly what happened! I think the blister is gone, but I can't be sure because I can't get the blister band-aid off. (It's crazy sticky!) My feet still hurt, but I don't have any pain where the blister was. I'm still rejoicing. Over everything.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One Foot in Front of the Other

Today was our longest day--21.3 miles (don't forget the 0.3!). Gentle and I started just before 8:00, again with our multiple layers, and got back to camp a little before 6:00.

The highlight of my day was seeing my mom, my sisters Amy and Emily, and Emily's kids Savannah and Charlie at cheer station 1. They'd been waiting for us about 1.5 hours in the cold, but they were having fun cheering on all the other hundreds of walkers. It was so moving to see them waiting there to give us hugs and encouragement. It was hard to say goodbye, but we had to move on so we wouldn't miss the cutoff for the next pit stop (in which case we would be bussed to the next stop).

As we walked away, tears streamed down my face because everyone--EVERYONE--was so kind and loving. This has been one of the best experiences of my life.

It was good we had so much support because we really needed it. It was tough today! Our feet were aching, and our backs, and our shoulders. And we were flat out exhausted. As we drug into pit stop 4, the second to last, I wondered if we could make it. There were five miles more to go, and we were out of steam. But we drank our sports drink, peed in the surprisingly decent flushing porta potties, did some stretches, and headed back out. Oh, and we said a prayer asking God for strength.

And he answered. Those last six miles were the sweetest. Everyone was festive, all part of one team sharing one goal. We got giggly at times, going into what I call slumber party mode.

As we finished those last miles, the supporters were more and more encouraging. "Just 2 more miles, ladies!" "Only 0.3 miles to the next stop."

And then we hit our last mile. "We can do it," I said, assuring both of us. "We just have to put one foot in front of the other."

A couple blocks later, there was a lady holding a sign saying exactly the same thing. "Just one foot in front of the other." I cried again, for the 15th time today.

And then there was the older woman who didn't just high five me, but actually clutched my hand. And there was the family who handed out donuts and hot chocolate from their front yard, and even offered their bathroom to us.

It was an awesome day, one when we found out what we are really made of.

Tomorrow, we get to do it all again.
Last Pit Stop--3 more miles to Go!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 1!

Me with Some of the Kind Strangers Along the Route

I have time for just a quick post tonight. Just finished day 1 of my 3-Day Walk, 17 miles so far. Gentle and I spent the night with my old Girl Scout friend Diana. We had a wonderful visit last night, and then she drove us to the opening ceremony this morning.
We were up at 5:20 and out the door by 6:00, wearing lots of layers. I believe it was 38 degrees, but there was very little wind. The only thing cold on me was my toes, which were about frozen in my 5-finger shoes. We stood around waiting for over an hour before the opening ceremony. They were playing loud, fun party music, and my feet were tapping even as my eyes kept filling with tears. I was waiting behind a beautiful young woman with stubbly black hair. From the back, I could imagine she was Laura, walking with us just as she dreamed of doing.
I asked God if she could walk with us, like I felt she did a few weeks after her death. (That time, I went for a one-hour training walk and talked to her the whole time about every memory I had of our short, sweet friendship. I turned at one point and said, "Are you holding my hand?" I really think she was.)
This time, I just felt she was looking down from heaven, along with so many others who battled cancer. I missed her so much, but I was happy knowing she was at perfect peace.
My next tears came when I saw the long line of strangers cheering us on as we finally embarked on our journey. There were mothers, teenagers, babies, dogs, and Harley Davidson riders, and they all high fived us as we passed and said, "Thank you for walking."
We saw the most amazing and hilarious costumes along the way, like a man wearing only shorts, a pink bra, and a Miss April sash. Also a dog wearing a pink leotard and a black tutu.
Throughout the walk, people cheered, shouted, and high fived us. In the morning, we passed an elementary school where the children lined up in rows and cheered like we were movie stars. At that point it was still very cold, but their love really warmed me up.
In the afternoon, it was much warmer, a gorgeous 70 degrees or so. By then I was down to a T-shirt and a tennis skirt. Just before the last pit stop, we passed a high school where about 100 kids lined both sides of the sidewalk. Some of them just stood there looking bored, but many of them--both boys and girls--seemed very sincere as they thanked us for walking. Remember my recent negative experience with kids at the football game? Well, these kids restored my faith in teenagers.
When we arrived in camp around 4:00, two young men who looked to be college age asked if they could carry our bags to the tent site. When we got there, they informed us that they were going to set up the tent for us! Neither Gentle nor I has ever set up a tent, so we were ecstatic. I think they were our Komen angels for the day.
I wish I'd thought to take a picture of the tent; maybe tomorrow. Our twin air mattresses filled the entire space, and we had to leave our bulging duffle bags outside.
Well, that air mattress is calling me. More soon!


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