I won’t be sleeping in tomorrow and my family won’t be serving me breakfast in bed. But this isn’t because Bob and the kids aren’t thoughtful and wouldn’t do just about anything for me on the second Sunday in May every year. The reason is that I will be waking up early, along with about 10,000 other amazing women (along with some men and children too), to start my Mother’s Day by participating in the 12th Annual Beverly Breast Cancer Walk.
This will be my 5th time in 6 years walking to through my Beverly neighborhood here in Chicago on Mother’s Day with family and neighborhood friends. It starts at 8:00 a.m. and I am always amazed at and moved by the turn-out of women and families so early on Mother’s Day morning. The event begins with a balloon release in memory of those who have lost their battles with breast cancer. We also honor the many breast cancer survivors in our neighborhood, many of whom participate in the walk. The annual 3 mile walk to “save second base” is a fundraiser to support cancer treatment at one of our local hospitals (Little Company of Mary).
This will also be the second year that my mom and my sister participate in the walk with me. It was very special for the three of us to walk together last year and I am honored that they have chosen to do so again this year. The three of us are pictured below in our matching shirts after the walk last year. Every year the organizers pick a new color and design for t-shirts that the walkers proudly wear during our walk. The only exception is for specific groups of friends and family members that walk in honor and/or memory of those who have died from or are currently battling breast cancer. Sometimes these groups will have their own special t-shirts made to honor their loved ones. It is always a beautiful sight to see so many walkers wearing matching shirts as we make our way around our neighborhood.
The only year I missed since my friends and I starting participating was the year that we had Molly (in 2008), as I was recovering from the c-section to deliver her less than a month before the walk. It was the only year that I recall it raining and I remember looking out my bedroom window at the back of our house and through the trees to the block just east of ours that morning and seeing women walking with umbrellas, raincoats and garbage bags on trying to stay dry as they made their way through the neighborhood route.
One thing the organizers of the walk do every year that I really like is that they vary the route. This way over the years we get to walk down different streets in our neighborhood and with each passing year the “host blocks” seem to get more and more into decorating (including tying big pink bows around their trees and hanging special banners) and entertaining us (there are usually a number of local bands and even Irish dancers that perform along the route).
The event has also in many ways become like a neighborhood parade, as many of the husbands, children and older friends and relatives of those walking (who may not choose to participate in the walk for one reason or another) will set up chairs to watch and cheer for all of us as we go by. Usually Bob and the kids will come out to see us at some point along the way.
Another really special thing about how they vary the route from year to year is that if there is someone in our neighborhood who is currently fighting breast cancer that is not strong enough to be able to participate in the walk, the organizers will try to configure the route to go down their block and pass by their house. Likewise, sadly if one of our community members loses their fight with breast cancer, the organizers will try to make it possible during the following Mother’s Day for us to walk down that woman’s block and pass her house to show her family that we remember and we miss her too.
I will never forget what it felt like last year on Mother’s Day to pass the home of a family who lost their wife and mother the previous September. The husband of the woman who died was standing out in front of their house that morning watching and smiling as thousands of us walked by honoring the life and memory of his dear wife that had left their family and our community much too soon. I can only imagine what it must have felt like for that man, as I know how moved so many of us walkers were.
So tomorrow we will walk.
We will walk and we will remember.
We will walk for those who have died.
We will walk for those who have survived.
We will walk for those who are currently fighting breast cancer.
We will walk for those who may someday have breast cancer.
We will walk in hope that someday there will be a cure for breast cancer.
I will walk for the mother of one of my childhood friends who died of breast cancer when we were in high school. She was the first person I ever knew who had breast cancer and ultimately lost her battle with the disease.
I will walk for my neighborhood friend Geri who is a breast cancer survivor. She is one of many survivors who participate in the walk every year that are such an inspiration to all of us here in Beverly.
I will walk for my new friend Michelle, at Knock Knock, it’s cancer! We met through the blogosphere earlier this year and have formed a special bond supporting each other on our journeys. Michelle’s is the first cancer blog that I have ever followed and likewise mine is the first infertility/loss blog that she has ever followed. Though we have had very different life experiences, we consider ourselves “kindred spirits.” I believe that having “walked” with Michelle in spirit over the past few months that she has been fighting breast cancer will bring new meaning to my experience walking in my neighborhood’s breast cancer walk tomorrow morning.
Today I got to witness and participate in the First Communion mass at our parish church. It was a beautiful experience to be a part of. I had a wonderful time teaching 2nd grade religious education this year and I am so happy for and proud of my students, and all the children at our parish and other parishes, who made their First Communions today. May God bless them and their families on this very special day on their faith journeys and throughout their lives.
I wrote this last year in a blog entry two days before Mother’s Day and it seems fitting to share again today:
To you mothers who are reading this, whether your children are living in your lives and/or in your hearts, I wish you a happy and blessed Mother’s Day. To those who are still waiting to meet your future child(ren), I wish you a beautiful and peaceful Mother’s Day and I hope that this time next year you will be celebrating the holiday with your child(ren) in your arms, instead of your dreams.
Finally, my thoughts and prayers are also with those of you who are celebrating Mother’s Day this year without your dear mothers, grandmothers, Godmothers, sisters, aunts or other women that have mothered you throughout your lives. This year is our family’s first Mother’s Day since Bob’s maternal Grandma/our children’s “GG” died. On this Mother’s Day we remember all four of our grandmothers and we miss them.