Be Strong, Be Kind

So, I guess I never gave a report on how the Lightweight North American Championship Highland Games went.

In a nutshell, it went as well as can be expected. Given the circumstances.

A lot of you may know that I lost my mother to an unexpected illness the Saturday before the competition. Losing someone important to you can make a lot of things seem trivial. Losing someone unexpectedly is a tremendous shock and turns your whole world upside down. It will make everything feel strange and disconnected. Grief is never quite what we expect it to be. Sadness, emptiness, anger, and confusion all occupy your mind. And when you momentarily forget they are gone and think of something you want to ask them, or give them, you will remember what happened and get a mighty gut punch of reality.

I honestly did not know what to do about the competition. I’d been dieting like crazy and was close to my goal. I had been practicing and while some of my throws just weren’t awesome, I was doing pretty good. I didn’t want to leave my father, or my kids, alone with their grief, but my aunt offered to stay with them and I realized I needed something to focus on. And a mental break.

So, the Friday after my mother’s death, I boarded a plane to Long Beach, CA with my husband and three lbs of water weight left to lose. I made weight, 1.5 lbs under with my pants on, rehydrated, and reported to the field. I did not have a great performance that day. My hammers were probably the worst I have ever thrown in 8 years of competition. My stones weren’t much better. I just didn’t have anything left for the caber at the end of the day. But, everything else was okay. I’m glad I went, if for nothing else to complete the journey I started and I was right, I really needed a mental break. Once I got home, it was time to plan my mother’s memorial service and celebration.

When you are grieving, it can be hard to be out in public. I avoided talking to my favorite butcher at Harris Teeter because I knew I would start crying if he asked me how I was. I avoided eye contact with other parents when I went to pick up my son from school. I found myself avoiding phone calls and visits and sometimes even texts because it hurt to just come up with a response even though they were all the same.

“I’ll be okay. Yes, we didn’t know. We are in shock. Thank you for being her friend. Thank you for coming. Thank you for thinking of me.”

Despite my awkward responses and tendency to avoid people, a lot of those interactions meant the world to me. People sent cards, texted, called, or simply showed up. Some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in years.

I’m still missing my mom quite a bit. She lived with my dad just up the street. I practiced throwing in their yard several times a week. We had Sunday dinners. She was a big part of my kids’ routines, and mine, and my husband’s. And now she’s gone.

But, I want to share something hopeful which I think is more important than ever with this pandemic and the uncertainty going forward. I have learned that there are a lot of people in your life who’ve got your back whether you know it or not. They see you. If you need it, they have a kind word to share or a hug just waiting for the right moment. And they will sit and just listen if given a chance. These are the people who stand up, regardless of what they may be going through, and say, “here, let me help”. My mom was one of those people. Be like them. Be strong, be kind, and pass it on.

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