Here are some pictures from Jessie participating in the Breast Cancer Three Day Walk. In the middle of this page is some of my observations on the morning I took her to walk. It's kind of long but you might like to read it.
When the alarm rang at 4:15 am this morning I nearly threw it through the window. It had been a long, restless night up to that point. Anyway, as I staggered from my bed feeling whiny and irritable I realized exactly why I had set my alarm so early. It was so that I could drive my daughter to participate in the Breast Cancer 3 day walk and that realization made me feel shallow for my petty complaints.
We had to drive across the valley to the drop off point and when we left the house a little after 5:30 am everything was dark and quiet. Yesterdays long, steady rain invited cooler temperatures into the Valley of the Sun and the morning felt unusually autumnal. The air was fresh with the just washed fragrance of the Eucalyptus trees, emerging winter lawns and the smell of cedar from many neighborhood roofs.
The freeway was fairly busy, even at that early hour and the car was quiet and slightly warm. We drove and talked quietly for almost 40 minutes. My daughter was nervous and was chattering and I just listened to her voice. The same voice I can still hear hints of her toddler inflections in. I felt proud of her and for some silly reason very emotional and almost sad – perhaps the lack of sleep, or perhaps just the solemn reason for the drive. As we traveled I thought of women I have known who have succumbed to this terrible disease. I thought of women I have never met who have left suffering families behind them. And I thought of how this devastating disease could affect our own family if it came to make a disastrous visit within the intimacies of our own direct family.
At the drop off point thousands upon thousands of women exited hundreds and hundreds of vehicles to participate in this event. There were many women my age there and surprisingly quite a few even older participating. Walking 60 miles in three days is a huge commitment and I was impressed with the tenacity and courage of the older attendees. The survivor pins, ranging from one to many, and punctuating the hats of many of the participants surprised me. For seem reason they made the reason for the walk even more vivid to me.
At the drop off point I pulled over and my daughter, jaunty in her bright pink t-shirt and grey hooded sweatshirt and shorts, got out of the car and struggled with her pack and sleeping bag. I came around the car and took several pictures (hey, I am nothing if not a die-hard scrapbooker) and we hugged for a long, long moment. I told her I was proud of her, asked if she had brought enough underwear and socks and watched her straight, determined young figure trudge across the parking lot to join a river of people heading off to raise millions of dollars for Breast Cancer research.
I headed back to the East, toward my parents to help with the garage sale and as I drove the sun broke over the horizon. The eastbound freeways had very little traffic and the farther I drove that direction, the less traffic there was. To my left was reservation land so few houses marred the pristine desert-scape. To the right of me an infinity of buildings stretched off into the distance and the flickering lights of businesses and homes stretched beyond the depth my eyes could see.
But ahead of me the sun broke over the mountains and illuminated everything with golden light that increased in intensity until a luminous glow seemed to brighten everything in its Midas path. The road stretched ahead like a golden river or a pathway of gold leading into some promised land. The mountains stark, dark purple silhouettes became clearer against the emerging red, pink and gold display. It was truly a scene of majesty and awe.
I thought of my daughter and her determination. I thought of all those people who make a huge effort to raise at least $2,000 dollars and who then devote three days to walk 60 miles out of memory or pain or celebration or fellowship, and I rejoiced that I am a part of a world where people do still care and where people do still make an effort to help others.
Steve, Chris, Julia and I headed to one of the cheering stations on Saturday to offer Jessie some encouragement. The day before had been hard for her with swelling feet. We had driven out to the other side of the Valley to drop her some larger shoes and she looked exhausted. Steve and I were both overwhelmed with the sheer volume of the particpants blue tents that were erected close to the High School Football field where the walkers were spending the night. Jessie took the shoes, gratefully, and limped away across the parking lot. It made her commitment to this cause very real to both of us. The cheering station was the least we could do. Megan had met up with me at my Moms to hand off the toddler and she was excited about going - not that she knew at all what she was going to see.
A very nice lady in the crowd gave Julia a pink and white pom-pom to use to cheer walkers on. Julia was shy at first.
But after she loosened up she loudly cheered and
encouraged with the rest of the crowd. "Keep walking, YAY, YAY, YAY !!!"
She said to each walker as they came by. Many smiled to see her happy little
face. Many gave her a high five. Many said "Thank you" to her to which
she replied politely, each and every time "Your Welcum".
After several hours she lost some enthusiasm and spent time playing with a little four year old girl, Berlin.
... and nagging her Uncle "Twis" to climb a tree with her.
But finally we saw Jessie coming, over two hours after our wait had started.
She paused for only a minute and then continued on with the final five miles of the day. We were all overwhelmed with the number of walkers, the enthusiasm of the crowd and the devotion to the cause that everyone there showed. It was astounding to see so many people of every age, race, nationality, height and weight. Many people were limping, others looked like they were fighting off tears. Some wore pictures of a loved one. Some sported angel wings or funny wigs or mardi gras necklaces. People in the crowd clapped and cheered and handed out popsicles and suckers and stickers and praise. It was an amazing event.
We asked her if she's doing it again next year. She said she'll think about it when her feet feel better.
Way to go Jessie. We are so proud of you.
take me home, please