When I was fifteen, I lost my mom to breast cancer. The day was October twenty first, and I was sitting on the left side of the library at the table near the window. As I was confirming my fantasy football lineup, Mrs. Winter, wearing a white cardigan, brown shirt, and white jeans entered through the front doors. She informed me my dad was in the front office. I didn’t think anything of this information or her arrival. However, as I entered, my dad wasn’t the only person there. My aunt, a short, grey-blonde, spitting image of my mom was there as well. Their faces were both blank. My dad broke the silence with two words, “follow me.” He led me to the little hill near the office where the grass fades from green into yellow. He said, “your mom’s sodium levels dropped last night. We don’t have any more time. She is already gone.” I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I started running. I ran to the track and never looked back.
Four months later, I was still running. This time I was running a half marathon through the streets of New Orleans in memory of my mom, side by side with my dad. We ran stride for stride with each other for thirteen point one miles. Throughout this ordeal, we both had moments of doubt and fatigue, but when the miles got tough, we thought of the countless chemotherapy sessions my mom endured with a smile. As we ran through the French Market just off Jackson Square where Decatur Street meets Esplanade Avenue; I hit a turning point. With the smell of beignets drifting behind me and a water stop just in front of me, I could imagine myself crossing the finish line.
Over the past eleven months, there have been moments where my mom’s presence has been almost tangible. The most significant of these occurred as my two cousins and I paddled a two man kayak a mile off the shore of Fort Morgan, Alabama to fish. We fished for an hour, but as we turned for home, the situation turned for the worst. The weight of our three bodies caused the kayak’s hull to take on water. After each stroke, the kayak would rock unsteadily back and forth until it finally flipped. Our rods sank, and our tackle and ice chest scattered across the Gulf of Mexico. We tried to right the kayak, but our attempts were futile. After half an hour of this, we were almost out of options. We decided to swim the mile back to shore with our guardian angel watching over us the entire way.