As we approached the finish line, the crowd thickened and the buzzing and cheering grew louder. Spectators lined the streets, welcoming us, thanking us, and congratulating us for finishing the 60 soggy miles. Huge grins plastered our faces, and tears filled the eyes of many. Then we walked through a long, beautiful line of co-walkers who had finished before us. The cancer survivors wore pink shirts, the rest wore white. Coming to the realization of exactly which walkers were survivors, and the sheer quantity of them, opened my eyes. These were true fighters. Fighters who had suffered and feared and worried, and won.
Then I saw my mom. She was standing there, her petite frame donned with a pink survivor shirt, her hair had grown out and was longer and a little grayer than it was when I last saw it, her face a bit more wrinkled. She smiled at me, as tears poured down her face.
This time, she was a survivor. This time, she made it. This time, she had won! This time, she had stayed in remission. And she was still here, here to walk with me and greet me at the end of the journey.
I stopped, and we embraced for a long moment, sobbing because we now lived in a better world, a world where cancer doesn't steal mothers away from their sons who still need them even though they are grown-ups. We lived in a world where cancer doesn't steal mothers from a houseful of boys aged eleven to 17, and cancer doesn't steal mothers from adult daughters who still have so much to say to her and do with her. We now lived in a time, due to the combined efforts of hundreds of thousands of people, when grandchildren get to know their lovely grandmothers, and spend time with them, and cherish them, until they have truly lived a full lifetime, the lifetime that they deserve.
My team paused and witnessed our reunion, joyfully crying with me, feeling intense pride and satisfaction that they had done so much to help me, someone that all but one of them have only really known for a matter of months. A couple of them were ready with cameras, and photographed one of those moments that really only ever happens once.
But it was time to continue down the pathway, so we parted and took those last few steps of our journey. I turned around to look at my sweet mother again. But she was gone. Lost in a collective consciousness of pink and white, but I knew more than I have ever known before how much she loved me and how she held my hand every step of those 60 miles. Proud of me. Prouder than ever of me for being who I am, and living my life in a way that brings her joy. Proud of me for getting over my silly, insignificant fears and reservations, pushing my limits, and really doing something about the thief that stole her away.