Life Assignment

trig pic

My Life is full. I’ve had 4 beautiful children who have flown the coop and I get the pleasure of being an observer of the fruits of their maturity and growth into adults. In one way it’s difficult, because when you spend 20 years pouring into your children, one is a little lost for purpose when that is no longer your role. Yet, it’s rewarding, because watching them fly (and sometimes fall) is a reminder that they are Living Life. They are doing their assignments.

as·sign·ment
noun
noun: assignment; plural noun: assignments
  1. a task or piece of work assigned to someone as part of a job or course of study.
    -the allocation of a job or task to someone.
    -the task or post to which one has been appointed.
  2. the assignment of individuals to particular social positions

Since the death of my first child, my son, Cory, my Life perspective is forever altered.

I’m an eleventh grade student all over again, given an assignment in Trigonometry that looks like a foreign language to me. I’m required to take the course to graduate. I don’t want to, I don’t understand it, and I can’t fake or skim my way through it as I have some classes prior. I stare at the chalk board as my teacher scribbles what looks like jibber-jabber on the board and the Fear sets in. I can’t do this. Nope.

I go to my school counselor…can I take something else for college-prep graduation? Nope.

So I go to class and I continue to sit up straight and look like a serious student taking notes in my purple spiral notebook. Inside I am panicking because I have NO IDEA what any of what I’m writing means. I occasionally frame my pages of notes with doodles of cartoon faces or intricate orderly designs of swirls, dots and shapes to relieve the anxiety, then bring my mind back to the teacher at the front of the class. He’s writing the new assignment neatly at the top right corner of the board:

Pages 140,141, and 142 #1-50. Due Monday. Test Wednesday.

Holy Cow. How did we get to page 140 already? So far, I’ve stumbled my way through, looking at answers in the back of the book for my homework assignments, copying others homework…going through the motions, writing formulas down, showing up, and appearing like I’m a real student. And I have a solid D in the class because of those bloody tests. I still understand Nothing, and I’m half way in.

I finally go to the teacher after school and I tell him the truth. I’m lost, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t think I belong in this class. He’s a bearded hippy looking “old guy” in his 50’s.

“You ARE in this class.”, he says. And he’s silent. Starts shuffling his papers while I stand at his desk awkwardly fidgeting with my fingers. My heart starts beating hard and fast. I wonder if he can hear it. That’s it? Jerk. I say, “Ooo…kaay.”, quietly as I start to turn to leave the room.

“Miss Gouthro?” he says. I turn and he’s writing a note on a piece of scrap paper. He slides it across the desk. It’s a number for a tutor and the time of a study group in his classroom. I followed directions. I met with a tutor and I joined the study group. With their help and support, I passed with a healthy C-, graduated and went to college. In college, I was a tutor for the football team in Freshman English, and returned the proverbial favor. And so it goes….

My son died. I don’t want to, I don’t understand it, and I can’t fake or skim my way through it. But I AM in this class. I’m going through the motions, showing up, and don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve had 1000 conversations with the old guy upstairs, have at times thought Him a jerk, and every now and then He slides me a note on a scrap piece of paper.

This one said, “Ride 1700 miles. Call so-and-so. Here’s your study group. Reach out, ask, pedal.” I’m following directions.

Returning the favor of providing research $$ to help other families have more Time with their kids afflicted with the beast of cancer, just as those before me did for us.

What’s your assignment? I will forever support others in their Life Assignments, too. We are all in school Together. And so it goes…

Support my charity ride HERE

 

 

 

March came in like a Leopard

cory

To be honest, March was a month of Self-Doubt. I had 10001 excuses not to train for this 1700 mile, cross-country journey ahead, so I didn’t. Not really. No progression and loads of whining and questioning in my head….”Who do you think you are, really?? You are 50 years old and on a bike made for Real athletes, when you haven’t really ridden a bike since you were 12.”…..”Yay! You rode 35 miles in one day!(but on this trip you will be riding 70 per day for a month straight…what?!?!)….”God, I’m not sure You know what You were doing when You called me to this. “…. “That’s a hefty physical and financial goal You’ve placed on my heart—what if I CANT?”….”Maybe I’ve already done enough?”….”Maybe I’m not up to it, I’m pretty tired. This bed feels Great!”

It goes on. Until I was looking for my last video of Cory on my computer.

March, 4 years ago, was when I’d flown to California with Cory to store his things and bring him back home for treatment of his second cancer battle (Leukemia with a required Bone Marrow Transplant ) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. See, his first cancer was a pediatric cancer, Ewings Sarcoma, so he was treated at Children’s for that. And bless them, they continue to care for their patients no matter what age….so back to Children’s he went for treatment of Leukemia even though he was now 24. Turns out the Leukemia was caused by the chemo from his previous cancer, but that’s another story.

Anyway, because dates and times in grieving loved ones are triggers in our brains (sometimes without being aware), this March I was thinking fondly back to this video of him playing with his cats (a.k.a small tigers, leopards, and such—‘small’ being a relative term) that he worked with at a refuge in California. He walked right into the cage using a rope to gently lead the cat along the ledges, up, down and around….it was clear Cory and this wildcat had a bond. As I looked on from outside the cage, I was amused and in awe.

I came to the computer to look in the files for the video, so I could watch it directly instead of through the feed in my memory. I was seeking the experience of seeing him move and walk and smile on the screen…seeking the experience of seeing him Alive again,even momentarily… seeking to solidify the happiness I was feeling in remembering.

I couldn’t find it. My warm feelings were replaced with frustration and worry that the video was gone or lost. I immediately retreated into the mood I’d been in all month…more whining, complaining, and feeling sorry for myself thoughts. I started, frantic and frustrated, looking through each photo file. And up came a photo that riveted me and stopped my clicking immediately.

It was an “ID” photo of Cory, that hung on his hospital window with all of his stats and his DNR order taped to it. I haven’t seen this picture in over 3 years. He is unrecognizable compared to the image I had in my head of his lanky body and beautiful face waltzing around the cats cage only 5 months prior to this ID picture being taken.

I was frozen as I took in his very darkened skin covered with small and large patches of wounds and scabs. A completely black nose with dead tissue that would have to be replaced with a prosthetic nose were he to survive. Hairless, with glassy, bloodshot eyes…. and the sweetest smile. The sweetest, kindest, softest smile with eyes just as genial. He smiled for the camera like, well….as if his body wasn’t in the war torn state it was in. And then I remembered.

I remembered his will to live, his quiet fight, his gratitude. I remembered that he never complained and certainly never whined even in the midst of intense suffering like I’ve never witnessed before.

I got back on my bike the next day and rode 150 miles in 4 days. I remembered why I’m doing this….For the other children and mamas & dads. And when I start to feel whiny or doubt,  I pull up the image seared in my head of Cory’s beautiful soul shining through the body that failed him….and I pedal faster.

My Fundraising Page Here: http://events.fastercure.org/site/TR/Events/DIYWrapper?px=1021131&pg=personal&fr_id=1050

Facing Fears

IMG_5212Facing Fears. #1 Rode for the first time on the road (instead of a path)…32 miles with cars, trucks, and trailers…and no bike lane  Talk about trusting my fellow man Then, 15 miles away from home, (fear#2) it started to rain. I had a distinct flashback to the rain on the day Cory rode away.  #soakedbuthappy  #lessonlearnedchecktheweather #Godsgotme #tenaciousfortitude

Donate Here to CureKidsCancer

Provision

IMG_5233Sweetest thing happened today…I bought a women’s bike jersey and shorts (Need that padding!) on a used sale site today (so I don’t have to wear Dave’s when I train…plus on a budget with the crazy biking gear!) When I met the seller to buy them (almost new, one with tags on it) she insisted on giving them to me! She said, “You are riding for a cause?”….I said, “yes, how did you know?!” (because I’d never mentioned it??) Turns out they looked up my Facebook page to make sure I was a real person since I was meeting them in a parking lot, and she saw what I was riding for and wanted to donate them for my ride. Come to find she’d lost her mom (and is a young mommy herself), so it meant something to her to help out. SO KIND! Drove away all teared up, I was so touched. ❤️

Donate here to CureKidsCancer

#Godprovides #beautifulpeople

 

One more reason to ride

Went to the credit union to make my car payment. The teller was wearing a necklace just like this around her neck only it was a picture of her 6 year old little boy. His school picture from a day he was probably running and playing on the playground with his buddies, traded sandwiches with someone at his lunch table, did a math worksheet before centers, and combed his hair just so. I complimented her on the necklace, even though I sensed why she was probably wearing his school picture etched in gold. I was right.
Cancer took him from his mama at 7 years old. And 13 years later, he is frozen in time in her heart and on the necklace she wears to work.

Birthday Gift, January 3,2017

Pssst. Hey, Happy Birthday, Cory. You would be 29 today. When I was your age I was married with 3 children. You will never get to experience the challenge and beauty of marriage or being a father. But I imagine it often. You would’ve been late to the game of both such life-long commitments, I’ve no doubt, because you would’ve had to over-think the necessity…..BUT, when you finally made such commitments, even though you’d be scared and feel the tasks daunting, you would’ve been all-in and amazing. Makes me both proud and saddened to think about.
I have a present for you this birthday. A commitment I couldn’t make until now because of much over-thinking as well.
I’m scared and feel This task daunting, but I am All-In.
You did something that most would never do. You hopped on a Schwinn bike you picked up at a garage sale, $150 in your pocket, with a one man tent and a backpack. And you rode from Ohio to Arizona. You told the hospital clergy that, in retrospect, it was a “Spiritual Journey” that you felt like you “had to take”.
I was a terrified Mom. Now I’m thankful. Thankful that you did what you felt deeply called to do while you were here. Thankful that you felt that the struggles and lessons of that journey unknowingly prepared you for the Cancer journey that lied ahead. Thankful that you gave me a template to continue your footsteps and to “Pay It Forward, in some way…” for the Gift of Time you were given. Because of your words, lives have literally been saved thru Team Cory & DeleteBloodCancer (DKMS)….and I am looking forward to running & swabbing again this year at the Pig!
Additionally…..
In late August thru September of this year, I will hop on a bike (not a schwinn and not from a garage sale and I will follow the route you took…in your memory and for others who are diagnosed with a pediatric cancer, as you were when you started your first cancer fight with Ewings Sarcoma.
I will Ride for National Pediatric Cancer, so that someday maybe other too-young lives might get more time or won’t be cut short. I know you will be with me.

Donate here to CureKidsCancer

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#payingitforward #always #tenaciousfortitude #justalittlecrazy #ridingforacure#Godwilling