Have I mentioned before that I am a blessed woman? I say it so often because it’s true, and I am reminded of this everyday. Though I’ve felt many emotions and sensations these past seven months (it’s been seven months to the day since I was first diagnosed with cancer), what I’ve felt most is loved and blessed.
Another example of how loved and blessed I am occurred this past Sunday, when my older brother Clete Willems completed a triathlon in my honor. And he didn’t just complete the triathlon, he completed it with a flourish, biking 24.8 miles in 1:01 followed by a 10k run in 36:05 (the swim portion of the triathlon was cancelled due to pollution in the Potomac River). With such great times, he finished first in his age division and was named the second fastest federal employee. Not only did his amazing athleticism shine through, but so did his generous and loving heart. In addition to running and biking for me, Clete raised over $9,000 dollars to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in my name! I am in awe of how generous all of our friends and family members have been, and I truly cannot thank you enough for your support-I am so moved and so grateful.
Please enjoy these pictures from the beautiful day.
John Paul and I helping Clete finish the raise, cheering for him and showing off our “Be Not Afraid” sign. My husband overheard someone in the crowd say incredulously, “Do you see the lady with the baby strapped to her chest?” John Paul and I weren’t going to miss the opportunity to help Clete finish strong!
Clete and me after the race.
John Paul and his loving Uncle.
Clete’s trophy for doing such a wonderful job.
Thank you for all of your support. We have such amazing people in our lives and are so excited to donate over $9,000 to help fight blood cancer!!! How incredible!!! Please know again of my gratefulness, and of my prayers for you.
I also want to mention a dear friend of mine, Mary. I’ve written about how supportive and loving she is in the past, and in an obvious demonstration of her love for me, she also ran in my honor this past Spring. While pregnant with her beautiful daughter, Natalie Allison, she completed a half marathon, all the while raising $2,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Mary with the jersey she wore with pictures of John Paul and me and the message: You can beat this Ali!
Mary and her baby girl finishing the race. What an amazing woman and what a story she’ll have to tell Natalie someday!
I am so thankful for my brother and for Mary and for the choices they made to willingly endure mental and physical exhaustion, muscle strain, months of training, and even injury to show their support for me. There are so many things in life that we can’t control and so much is a mystery. And it can be difficult to watch someone you love suffer. But choosing to show solidarity, whether through running, praying, or even just thinking of the person is a beautiful thing-something that binds us together no matter how different our experiences in life. We often want to do something to make another person better, to take all of their pain away, but the truth is, we usually can’t do that. Most of the time, all we can do is show them love. We should never not reach out to someone because we don’t know the “right” thing to say or do for them. Really, all that every human wants is to be loved. And love, expressed in any way, is always enough.
I am so grateful for each of you reading my words. Thank you for expressing your love for me in so many different way.
My prayer for you today is that you too feel loved and supported by others, and that you take the time to make everyone around you feel the same way. Reach out to those close to you, and those you see in need. Even if you think you don’t have the right words or that you can’t relate to what they’re going through, reach out anyway. Realize that even if love is all you have to offer, it is more than enough.
My dear friend Caroline expresses this beautifully in her poem, “Awed, involuntary.”
I went for a run in the dark, having
left you sleeping at Sibley Hospital.
You had two strokes on Sunday. But you
should have seen me hit my stride,
every step in keeping with a path I couldn’t see.
And Gene, as I ran everything became
beautiful: trees, cars and most of all,
people I passed. The city appeared to me
as did your early attempts at speech…
disconcerting, and yet, miraculous.
Gene, I kept whispering, “Jesus,”
not as a cry for help, but as a whisper,
awed, involuntary. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,”
because it felt so good to say. To say
His name as a prayer for you.
My run took me across a bridge, a
great chasm of black spread below.
I wasn’t scared, though, not with
street lamps shining out the way,
the nurse who was kind to us, your eyes…
Your eyes still bear you behind them.
Gene, I said to you in my heart, “I’m here.
And I don’t have to stop running.”
I could have kept on if you needed me to.
For you, Gene, I could have kept going.
Caroline McGraw is a beautiful person and writer. She blogs about finding meaning in your most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear. Her writing is truly wonderful, and I hope you check it out!