What an amazing journey that I was fortunate enough to take this last weekend. I completed my 19th 3-Day 60 mile walk with a wonderful Miles for Martha team, and the continued love and support from good friends, both old and new. My team was small, just 4 of us, but strong in body and spirit. Glen Dekeyser (25th walk!), is the gentlemen that helped open my eyes to the 3-Day 3 years ago, and a masterful Ole and Lena joke teller as well. My incredible twin nieces Katie and Lindsey provided me with love, laughter, and often moments that just make you scratch your head! This was their first 3-Day and as I had hoped it will not be there last. They brought joy to the route and were touched by the stories they heard, while their own indelible spirit lifted many a walker along the way. Each event has a different effect on me, this one more than others. I thought for some period of time that I had been handling my grief in a positive way. I was open, talked about Martha and what she meant to me and our family. I felt the pain of her loss at certain times or on certain days. Wondered aloud why it happened to someone that had already been through so much. What I did not realize is that with each episode, each sense of helplessness I was pushing those feelings back behind a door that was difficult to open. A door that I did not know even existed. Some may call it being strong, others may call it suppression, but at the end of the day when you don’t even know what you are doing, it is just hiding the inevitable. With each day of this long walk I could sense something within. My nieces were using many keys to open the long dormant door, some of them worked and I felt my emotions starting to escape. Yet I kept pulling the door closed, trying to be the strong example. They kept at it though and on Sunday they really started to pull at that damn door. While holding Lindsey’s hand, and with my arm around Katie, I shared a story that really started to open me up, and I know that they sensed this as well. Yet once again strength, and more so the concentration of getting through the final day finally won out. We finished with laughs, hugs, and incredible memories. They had to leave before closing, and I had lost Glen along the route, so I was taken in by my amazing friend Carolyn Parks and her team, Feet to Beat breast cancer. A tailgate led to good conversations and primed us for an inspirational closing. Closings always get to me, I often lose it the minute I take off my shoe. I always feel so honored to be a part of this, and to help the survivors know that there is hope. I do also feel my loss when the survivors make their way in. I so bad want Martha to be there, but I soon realize she is, in the presence of each and every one of these amazing women. This day was different though, no matter how hard I tried to rationalize my feelings, the women of Feet to Beat kept bringing them back to the surface. Then it happened, the person with the final key, the one that would open the door wide, took hold of me. My incredible friend, one of my original walking angels from 2013, Carolyn, hugged me. It was within her embrace, surrounded by loving friends and the support of this 3-day family that I truly just let go. I felt myself trying to breathe, as my emotions flowed, and then she said, “I will not be the first one to let go” with this I lost hold of the handle and the door was kicked aside. I tried to let go but could not, I was not just holding Carolyn, I was holding Martha, my daughter Ally, my son Rob, my nieces, and even my new love Lisa. All were a part of opening me up, but it was Carolyn who was chosen as the Angel to allow it to happen. God bless her, her team, my teammates, the 3-Day family, all helped to bring something out of me that needed to be exposed. I was so emotionally spent that I had to find a curb after the ceremony to sit on for a while just to take it all in. Upon arising I felt renewed, exhausted, but renewed. A feeling that will help carry me each day, moving forward, while holding the past so dear.
Once again it just proves the strength of this amazing community, and that it is never “just a walk”