Tomorrow many people will see a young boy in a blue uniform run in a Cross Country event. He will likely have an average to good pace and a hint of a smile as he crosses the finish line. That is not what I will see.
As he laces his shoes I will see my 6 month old baby’s face, purple from coughing and struggling to breathe due to RSV ravaging his lungs.
As he takes his mark I will breathe deeply for him, like I did so many times when he struggled through every breath and my body ached for his.
As he takes those first steps in that first run I will retrace those steps through the ER hallways as he was treated for pneumonia again.
As he rounds the bend in the race out of my sight I will remember the winding hallway that led to the room where they tested his tiny 3-year-old body for Cystic Fibrosis because they were at a loss as to why this little body could be so sick.
As I anticipate his face appearing near the finish line I will remember the anticipation of pulmonology appointments that were necessary evils instead of park days with friends.
We can’t always see what propels people – what struggles define their journeys, which triumphs bolster their enthusiasms, or which stumbles leave scars. But I will remember with a familiar aching pain the fear of the unknown. I will recall with appreciation the Mayo doctors who helped to treat his lungs – and treat him as a boy who just wanted to breathe deeply and enjoy life. I will think of my mother rocking my baby boy during his illnesses to give my aching arms a rest. I will smile and think of cuddling upright with him for months at a time to help his lungs drain fluid as we both slept. I will think of all of these things because I must remember his struggles so that I might be even more thankful for every step he takes today – a healthy young man.
As he crosses that finish line I will know that my prayers were answered and that although his journey in life began with so many struggles, he has been given a strength that I spent dreamless nights praying he could receive.
And yes, I’ll be the mom who probably lets a tear slip down her cheek as her son crosses that line. But no longer a tear of worry – but a tear that marks the beautiful trail of my running boy.