I used to run.

I'll repeat that for those who know me as an adult woman and have heard me joke endlessly that I do not run and would not for fear of my ass swinging up and hitting me in the back of my own head.

I'm not into that. 

But I used to be.  A long time ago.  I ran "long distance", which in today's world is not very long distance at all as the races were only 3 to 5 miles or so.  Tops.

Now people run marathons and shit.

But I ran "long distance"--not very well and not very successfully and sure as hell not for very long.  One of the things I learned in that time was to put my head down and just zone out into the run.

One foot in front of the other.


It made it easier to get through it as I never really enjoyed it much and it was more of an exercise in endurance for me than anything else.  So, it became my first lesson in Zen. Maybe even the Tao.

One step at a time.

I stopped running years ago.  I became a walker, which I happen to enjoy a great deal.  But still....I kept with that old routine. 

Head down.

It became soothing.  Never looking or thinking too far ahead.  Just being in the moment.  Stepping.

Then in early November 2010, my Mother was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. 

It was a devastating blow for her, for myself, and our entire family.  The news overwhelmed her and the things that needed to be done, just medically, were staggering.  I decided very quickly that the best approach to take was the one I had been using for years.

Head down.  One step at a time. 

So at least for me and Mom, that really did become our personal "Tao".  Our Way through it all.  We tried not to look ahead.  We tried not to stop to think what might happen in the coming days, weeks, months, or years.

The reality of what might or worse, might not, be in the future was too much and too raw to think about.  It was one treatment at a time.  One test at a time.  One new drug at a time.

Until this summer.  Everything had failed.  There were no more treatments to give.  No more tests to run.  No new drugs to try.

No more steps to take.

I went home to take care of my Mom in what was to be her final nine days.  We were staying at my brother's house and she was able to be surrounded by her brothers, sisters, kids, grandkids, and one very concerned family dog. 

Things fell into their own stepped routine.

Oxycodone every four hours.

Then morphine every two hours.

Ativan every four hours.

Morphine every single hour.

Atropine every four hours.

There were other things.  The rhythmic hiss and gasp of the oxygen concentrator machine.  The accompanying snore and rattle of my Mom's breathing as she slipped from consciousness in the final stages of her life.

I needed to leave.

So every day, I waited for my brother to come home from work when he would come in and sit with her.  And every day, I went outside and took a walk.

Head down.

They were good walks even if it was damn hot and I could feel the sun beating down onto the top of my head as I went.  I just walked and walked and walked until I felt like myself again.  And then I went back inside. 

And so it went.

Until the day when everyone had left the house and I was sitting with Mom and I realized that one of the steps, one of the routines, one of the rhythms had changed. 

It had changed by its absence.

In early August of 2013, my Mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer.

Much later that day, I went outside to take a walk.  And as I felt the radiant sun begin to warm the top of my head as I looked down, I paused.

I looked up.
I looked forward.
And I started to walk into the future.

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