more than just distance
Race days are always exciting for the Schwartz family. We usually have a couple of runners participating and the rest of us are on the sidelines supporting them with our cheers and clever signs. I have attended many local races to encourage my mom and my sisters as they make their way to the finish line.
Race day for the Grand Rapids Marathon 2009 was a little different. Only one runner from our family was participating: mom. She wasn’t running the full marathon but she was going to conquer the half. This was the longest race Mom has ever attempted. That fact alone was thrilling, but this race wasn’t just about distance – it was about a mother’s love.
Sixteen weeks ago, my parents received news that every parent dreads. Their oldest daughter, Rosario, was in surgery thousands of miles away. She had been shot in the chest during a random mugging near her home in West Hollywood. Details were received in bits and pieces, but the support from Rosario’s friends in California and our friends and family in Michigan and all over the country flooded in.
Mom, Dad and I flew to Los Angeles to witness for ourselves the miracle of life that is Rosario, who was working as a missionary. It truly is a miracle that she survived. The doctors and surgeons said she should have dropped dead as soon as the bullet entered. “God smiled on her,” one of the surgeons told us. The prognosis was more that we could have ever hoped: she is expected to make a full recovery!
That is not to say the last four months have been easy going on Rosario. She hasn’t had any major complications, but the recovery process, which could take up to a year, has been slow and painful. Rosario has been very gracious throughout this whole ordeal. Although she remains positive and recognizes every day as a gift, there are days when her pain is overwhelming.
It has not been easy for our parents, either. Almost losing their daughter was devastating, and leaving her in LA (Mom after four days and Dad after nine) broke their hearts. They left Rosario in the very capable hands of a family friend until she was well enough to fly home in mid-August, where she will remian until she is able to care for herself again. It has been a comfort and joy for Mom and Dad to care for their beloved daughter.
A few weeks after Rosario had been released from the hospital, she and Mom were chatting on the phone. Mom mentioned that she had been running with Run Gazelle, a local running club, and was training for a 10k. She had just found out she had a scheduling conflict with the date of the 10k. Mom was disappointed. She had the option to train for a half marathon, but wasn’t sure if she could do it. Rosario lamented how much she missed running and that it will be quite a while before she can train for a race. That was all Mom needed to hear. She decided to run the half marathon in Rosario’s honor. “If Rosario can take a bullet in the chest, I can run a half marathon,” Mom said.
When race day finally arrived, the family was full of excitement! We couldn’t wait to share in Mom’s joy as she crossed the finish line. Not all of us could go to the race due to conflicting school/work schedules, but those of us who were able to go wrapped ourselves in layers upon layers of clothing and topped them off with warm hats and massive winter coats. It was a very cold morning. Other spectators looked at us like we were crazy since we all looked like we were headed to the arctic circle instead of the Grand Rapids Marathon finish line.
We stationed ourselves along the route at the three and a half mile mark. It was a perfect location right in front of the downtown Starbucks. We indulged in hot lattes and waited inside for the runners to start flying by before standing on the curb to wait for Mom. We held our sign with pride and cheered for her as she passed. The sign read “MOM’S LOVE: STRONGER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET”. It may not have made sense to other people, but we knew what it meant.
We made our way to the finish line, with Dad leading the way. We settled Rosario into a chair and covered her with blankets. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Dad, Rosario, Angelica and I were joined by several friends. We waited some more. Every ten minutes, Dad would say “Any minute now!”
We saw Mom’s running buddy, Karen, pass by and knew Mom wouldn’t be too far behind. We spotted her just after she turned the corner. She was so focused on the finish line she didn’t acknowledge our wild cheering, but we continued just the same until she finished the race. We packed up our camp and headed to the finish line to greet the conquering hero.
Mom proudly wore her finisher’s medal as she hugged each of us. Then she stood in front of Rosario and said, “I told you I was running this race in your name, so this really belongs to you.” Mom took the medal from around her neck and gently placed over Rosario’s head. “My half marathon has ended, but you are still in the middle of your marathon. I’m glad I was able to run part of it with you.”
It wasn’t about the distance. It was about a mother’s longing to take away her daughter’s pain. It was about a mother’s desire to give her daughter hope. It was about a mother’s determination to honor her daughter’s courage. It was about a mother running side-by-side with her daughter through the most difficult part of the race.
This race wasn’t just about the distance. It was about a mother’s love that is stronger than a speeding bullet.
Mom and Roario after the race
The runner and her cheerleaders