Does anyone else still remember and think about Randy Pausch and his last lecture? Briefly, he was a young, remarkable college professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent a year contemplating what mattered most. He wrote a lot about how to prepare his children for his death. His youngest was quite young at the time and he talked about the importance of creating an amazing, indelible memory for his littlest ones - in his case, swimming with dolphins. That was the best way, he thought, to get the little ones to have a memory of him after he died.
I was not able to say goodbye to my Mom. I do not know what lessons she most hoped that I learn or what guidance she would have given me. I do not know what our conversations would have been as we grappled with that sadness together. I only know what it feels like to thrash around alone, in her absence.
What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with Race Day? (Coming up fast!) Well, as much as I wasn't prepared - couldn't prepare - for her death, I spend an awful lot of time preparing and laying the groundwork for the moment when I tell my boys the beginning of the story of their grandmother's murder. I hope it is a long time from now, still. Because of that hope, there is a temptation to keep this race compartmentalized. To wall it off from superhero costumes and playgrounds and scooter rides and silliness.
But, I can't do that.
My husband and I made a decision that, even if we are tipping our hands a bit, we want our kids to have an indelible memory of race day, to be a part of it. We want to share this with them. They, too, will have RUN LIZZIE RUN shirts. We talk a lot about Mommy's race on my Mommy's birthday. We tell them that our friends - and their friends - are excited about it too. They have buttons on their jackets and their teachers do, too. While not quite swimming with dolphins (maybe someday!), I want them to remember their grandmother's 70th birthday and the race I am running for her. I hope that it will be sunny and that they will make a sign. I hope that their friends and their parents will cheer, too. I hope that they will have some sense that this is a Big Deal. That they are part of something, even if they aren't sure what it is.
When we have to tell them that hard, devastating news about how their grandmother died, I want them to be able to recall race day. I hope that it will help them feel that this is part of the fabric of our family, of our story, of their story. We won't keep it on a high shelf. They will be able to talk about it and ask questions. It will be, and already is, part of who they are, too.
I hope that they will remember this race as a sign that we have done more than just survive a horrific tragedy, that we are thriving. I am trying to take my life's hardest moment and use it to keep other families safe, to help make a world where fewer families have that hard, dark moment. Literally, I am doing it one step at a time.
Come join us. Wear a button. Bring a sign. Be part of my boys thinking that this race is a big deal, that their community is with their mom, and with them. Maybe it will be a beginning for all of this.