Reindeer Fun Run 2007: A Perfect Day with My Mother
The Reindeer Fun Run is a very special race for me. Not only is it the most fun race ever, but it commemorates the last normal day I had with my mother before she passed away on December 22, 2007.
It was the first year of the run, held in Southern Pines. I knew mom didn’t have much time left. The doctor gave her six weeks to live. We had made a pack some years earlier to travel by faith. When we first discovered she had a terminal heart condition and was given only six months to live, I told her point blank, “I am going to help you run all the way to the finish line. Whatever it takes. Whatever the cost. I am by your side.” I didn’t realize six months would turn into almost seven years.
As a life-coach, I wanted to give her a strong finish to her race, so at 85, I taught her how to play golf, helped her start a house-cleaning business at 88, when she also had her first paid modeling shoot. At 89, she started public speaking. At 90, it was time for her first golf tournament, The Grandma Open. Now here she was at 91, at the Reindeer Fun Run, with only a few steps left to her real finish line.
The day was cold and I wondered if she should join me. I had learned to locate her stamina by asking her a bunch of questions every day. She wanted to go, so we bundled up and headed to the Southern Pines Park. The scene was everything Mom’s life stood for: small town, family, outdoors, athleticism, and dogs!
As the race started, Mom promised to see me off. The starting gun went off. I looked around. No mom. It was a surreal feeling of moving forward and knowing that Mom was moving backwards.This was the first time she was not there to see me off! I ran the race with my green and red face-painted American Eskimo, dog, Teddy-boy. While it was fun, I couldn’t wait to get back to see how Mom was doing.
“I couldn’t walk. Too tired.” Mom said, smiling at all the people and activities. “I sure did enjoy myself sitting and watching everything from the car.” “Mom,” put on those bright pink Nike tennis shoes I bought you and let’s drive up to the finish line to take a picture.” After the race, I caught a picture of Mom coming through the finish line, with hands raised high in a total demonstration of victory.
The rest of the day was just as fulfilling as the race. We had a great lunch at Nature’s Own, visited a new friend, and headed to Food Lion where she just had to shop everyday. Once home, I said to myself, “I just had a perfect day with my mother.”
The next day she suffered another heart attack and died three weeks later. I was stunned to realize that what I always spoke about as a metaphor—helping my mother finish strong all the way to the finish line—God took literally. Together, we literally went all the way to the finish line in a real race that ended in total victory. That victory not only represented Mom’s race finishing strong, but my own race of redeeming a lost mother-daughter relationship that began with a total emotional estrangement. I am so thrilled this race represents victory in so many ways for me. The day after Mom passed, I was waiting at the red light impatient for the person ahead of me to get going. I looked at the license plate which read, “Race on!” I believe that was a message for me–so that is what the Reindeer Fun Run means to me—a memory and reminder from Mom to RACE ON!”
Here are the pictures of Mom and me at the 2007 Reindeer Fun Run.