Written by Shelley Plett Tuesday, 07 November 2006 18:00When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another. -Helen Keller
A middle-aged woman with caramel-colored pixie hair walked to the nurse's desk and was greeted with hugs and exclamations of "You look so good!"
She patted her spiky hair and smiled. "It's growing back."
I watched them from my seat across the chemotherapy room as a needle was inserted into my mother's port-a-cath. The nurse hung the drug cocktail, studied it for a second or two, and then tapped the plastic tube with two fingers to encourage the intravenous drip.
If her chemo treatments were a marathon, my mother would have just passed the 13-mile mark. Half way there.
Not long ago, my other mother (the in-law kind) passed her own 13-mile mark. And then went on to cross miles 14 through 26 in her first actual marathon.
Both of these women are running a course, while very different ones, with a purpose. They have a single result in mind. To beat something. Their odds, their doubt, their own bodies.
They may not be exactly sure how to get there, or even why they have to, but this purpose keeps them going and inspires them. Along with those of us who are watching from the sidelines.
Believe me, 26 miles of a foot race and eight treatments of chemo go a lot quicker as a spectator.
Not more than a step behind the adults, the granddaughters these two women share watch them very closely.
One Sunday, they cheer while Grandma turns the final corner toward the finish line after 31⁄2 hours of continuous running. Our caravan had caught up with her at several mile markers as she rounded another corner here and there, but most of the time, sat reclined in the car with a hot cappuccino and a book.
After she finished, I decided not to mention that I was able to put back two cups and eight chapters while she checked the road behind her for dropped body parts as she willed herself down that delusional final stretch.
The next Sunday, the grandkids planted hugs on their other Grandma as she prepared for her 12th week of continuous doctor's visits.
Spending time with this Grandma has been cut back, understandably so, as she deals with the unpredictable side effects of chemo.
They see her less often, in between stretches of recovery time, but are learning new lessons during the void. Sometimes the big choices are made for us, and then we take it from there.
Even a child can reason that sacrificing time now in exchange for more time later is worth it.
They're showing us that finishing a race doesn't depend on the circumstances. It depends on the one doing the racing. These are two women who don't consider any option other than barreling over or directly through their obstacles, whichever route it quicker.
They both have a finish line to cross. And if things go as planned, they'll cross it in one piece.
They probably don't see their actions as inspiring. But if they could see how their granddaughters watch them running their respective courses, they would understand that every time they put another foot down and move forward one more step, little eyes follow them.
It's safe to say there are no rocking chairs in their immediate futures. We'll just step back and cheer them on. Grandma's gotta go. We'll catch up around the next turn.