My mom passed away this past Saturday, February 21st. She was a few weeks shy of her 89th birthday.
To her dying day, I don’t think my mom completely understood what I did for a living. In the early days, she’d always ask: "How come the clients get their names in the paper and you don’t?” Of course, that scenario changed dramatically in recent years and seeing her pride in yet another personal, professional or agency success was a very cool thing indeed.
My mom didn’t go to college and couldn’t expound on the nuances of image or reputation. But, she based her life entirely on the health, well-being and success of her family. And, what better definition of image and reputation can one find? She was what you’d expect of all moms: kind, caring and compassionate. But, she could be tough as nails when the occasion called for it.
I have many fond memories of my mom. But, I think the one I’ll remember most occurred just recently.
Thirty years ago, I had just gotten into long distance running. I knew little about the sport and nothing about cross-training or nutrition. So, when I decided to run the Long Beach Island 18-mile "marathon,” I was woefully unprepared. I hit the wall often and early that day. The race was run along the length of Ocean Avenue in Long Beach Island and, in those days, there were few, if any, barriers separating the runners from the well wishers.
Seeing my obvious distress, my mom got my dad to drive the car right alongside me. As they did, she’d lean out the window and implore me to keep pushing. "It’s just five more miles," she’d yell. "Four more and you’re there," she’d scream. And, finally, "The finish line is just around the corner." I finished. But, it was only because of her constant, moral support. And, trust me, I was one hurting puppy afterwards.
Now, fast forward to this past October. Thirty years after running my first and only Long Beach Island Marathon, I’d entered my second one. This time, though, I was fully prepared for the physical, mental and emotional challenge.
And, guess who was there at the finish line in her portable wheelchair? My mom. Despite having suffered two broken hips, countless mini strokes and god knows how much heart and kidney damage, she was right there to root me on.
I knew she was near the end of her life. But, I cannot tell you how good it felt to sprint the final few yards of that race with her watching me. There are many things I’ll remember, but her smiling face on that crisp October afternoon is the one that meant the most to me.