Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brooks Challenge Mile 2016

Where has the time gone?  
I haven't blogged in what feels like forever.
Today was an amazing day so I figured I would share some thoughts with you all.

Today, 113 days after my dad's stroke, a stroke that doctors said would render my dad unable to walk or talk....yes, 113 days since THAT stroke, my dad signed up and completed the Brooks Challenge Mile. He walked it.  He walked it on his own, well with a bunch of us walking with him.  He walked it without any type of external devices.  This was the 6th year that Brooks has hosted the challenge mile as part of the festivities surrounding the Gate River Run.  I was browsing the Brooks facebook page one evening a few weeks ago when I ended up on the website and reading about the challenge mile...I started messaging my brother and sisters and mom and asked them what they had planned for March 12th....they were all a bit baffled but said nothing....I told them I would come over the following day to tell them my idea.  I thought it might have been pushing it, signing my dad up and doing this such a short time period after his stroke.  He agreed so we went for it!  

Finally March 12th arrived...and we had to wake up way too early, and get signed in and to the event....then wait for what seemed like forever for it to actually start, but once it started, I felt for that one mile stretch that I wasn't part of this world.  At least not in the sense of ready, set,, win, win.  I like the way the Brooks Rehabilitation Challenge Mile described it so I will tell you there purpose behind it...."The Challenge Mile is not meant to be a competitive race, but rather a way for people of all ages and abilities to celebrate their personal accomplishments. " This is not a race, this is not about who finishes first, this is not about personal achievements, this is not about the medal, this is not about personal gain, this is all about celebrating the accomplishments that so many people take for granted.  It was very overwhelming to me to see so many different people in so many different places in their life but all, in one way or another tied to Brooks... some still in the Brooks Rehabilitation hospital, some like my dad who have gotten out and are still working hard in therapy, others who are seasoned pros at being differently-abled. 

I saw determination. From the little guy who looked to be no older than 2 or 3 to the elderly gentleman who had to stop every few feet to take a break to the middle aged man who pushed forward and each step was challenging to the middle aged guy with no hands and wheelchair bound who completed that mile in less than 30 minutes to the woman who was pushed by her family to the woman who was relearning how to walk. I noticed that determination looks very similar no matter the age of the man who possesses it. 

I saw amazing love.  I saw unconditional love. I saw unfailing love. I saw people who love beyond what the world can see.  I saw people who loved beyond the way the world defines the intense feeling of deep affection.  I saw generational love. At one point I was behind what looked to be a grandmother, mother and daughter. I loved watching the way they each held on to the one they loved and walked with her every step of the way.  

I saw smiles.  I saw tears. I saw joy and heartache, and struggle and success all in one mile. 

I heard loved ones encouraging the people they were walking with.  I heard wives telling their husbands to just keep going, that they could do it.  I heard a care giver telling a young man to take just one more step.  I heard a lot of clapping and cheering coming from the people who were near the back of the crowd as those who had made the turn and were already heading for the finish.  

In one mile, I was reminded of just how much love there is among family. Most of the people participating in this challenge mile did so with the assistance or care of loved ones who were walking with them every step of the way.  I saw how Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital encouraged my dad when he was going there and as the volunteer in charge on our bus said, "You are part of the Brooks family now, welcome to the family!"  We had an amazing volunteer leader....she has been in my life since 9th grade!  She took some of these pictures I am using on this blog with my camera, and tonight she shared this with us that just seemed so fitting - "Everything happens for a reason. Nothing happens by chance or by means of good luck, illness, injury, love, lost moments of true greatness, and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul. Without the small tests, whatever they may be, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight flat road to nowhere. Appreciate every moment and take from those moments everything that you possibly can."

Being somebody who struggled with physical issues in high school, I longed for a place to fit in.  I wanted to run track and play basketball. I wanted the medals and trophies, as some kind of accomplishment to look back on.... but my joints didn't allow me to compete with peers that were my age.  I can't tell you how amazing it is that this Challenge Mile exists, and that within that mile, you fit in, no matter what you are dealing with or have been dealing with, no matter if you can walk or run or be pushed, you belong. Age doesn't matter, height doesn't matter, how fast you are or how slow you are doesn't matter. At some point we come to realize that what can be recorded on paper or preserved in a medal or trophy, fails in comparison to what our heart learns from walking this difficult road of not fitting in...but hey - I finally got a medal!

 I was so happy to see my dads physical therapist from when he was at Brooks Hospital come and see him.  My dads face definitely lit up when he saw Michael and Vince!  I love the way they see my dad and are genuinely happy with how well he is doing. 

I really like this picture of us walking.  Its a great representation for me about what life should be like.  We should walk beside each other no matter how difficult the terrain we are to traverse. We are not guaranteed any day or hour or moment with those we love.  I will never forget the knock on my door the morning of Saturday, November 21st, 2015 sister just said, "something happened to dad, the ambulance just left with him."  I remember sobbing in my husbands arms and just saying that I didn't want him to die.  I love my dad so much, we connect --and we understood each other and our relationship had really grown a lot in the months leading up to his stroke.  I get sad when I think about the things I miss from before.  I get sad when I think that he will never be how he used to be.  But then I look at this picture, everything looks so 'normal' if you didn't know our story.  I will always walk beside him, encourage him, offer some water when he needs it, a snack, a ride to see his brother....because when its all said and done - people remember you being there for them.  They remember you walking beside them when their reality sucks.  



Anonymous said...

I love you and the way you sum it up.....and the way our family shows up....and the way friends walk with us to encourage us....and Brooks. The staff at Brooks is AMAZING, they worked so hard to get your dad back on his feet, literally. Thank Michael, Susanna, Emily, Elli, Vince, Jonathan, Joka,, Gina and all the people who work so hard to help people reclaim their lives.

Ed said...

The love displayed for EVERYBODY attending was amazing to see and so very real. One thinks life is challenging until you see what others are going through and their spirit and their determination. An amazing day! So many stories not told but you can only imagine. An amazing blog by an amazing person for an amazing event!