It keeps time with my foot falls, never silent, never still, as long as I just don't stop.
It mirrors my cadence; keeps measure with my steps, never faster, never slower.
It sounds steady, consistent and true, like a heartbeat of sorts.
When I begin to hurt and unravel and the cracks of doubt begin to widen, its persistence reels me back.
If I just don't stop, its measure is with me, softly comforting me, refocusing me, distracting me, encouraging me, like it's her voice.
At times I don't hear it. If I am not hearing it, then I am not listening. If I am not listening it's because things are coming easily and feeling good. When things are going well, my thoughts are elsewhere. When running feels effortless, its rhythm and bounce aggravate me and I will tuck it away into my shirt to mute its insistence. Somehow it always works itself free to ring on; as long as I am in motion it searches to sing. It's as though its job is to remind me to keep going so it can keep going.
For as long as I can remember, my Mom wore a tiny silver bell on a chain around her neck. She loved bells and was a collector. Her collection housed different sized bells, ones made of brass and porcelain, old and new. We didn't have a traditional doorbell, we had a big brass bell hung beside the door for people to ring like an olden day supper bell. We had wind chimes all around the yard that rang out as the breeze touched them. Something about the sound of bells and chimes resonated with her. I never asked what it was or why it was that she loved them. I never questioned what inspired her attraction. It was one of those things that was woven into the fabric of our home. When things are taken for granted, they exist without question. We never ask why, there is no reason to question normalcy.
When she died, over 14 years ago at the age of 47, I removed her diamond earrings from her ears, her wide, silver wedding band from her finger and her necklace from which the tiny, beloved silver bell dangled from around her neck.; all things my Dad had lovingly given her. Through streaming tears of grief and without hesitation I put the necklace around my neck so it wouldn't be silenced along with her life, so its life could continue even though hers couldn't; as long as there was motion, it wouldn't die with her.
To me, there is nothing that defines my Mom more than the tiny bell she wore, with its filigree pattern. She was an early riser my whole life, a habit passed on to me that has served me well. As a child, I remember the first sound I would listen for upon waking was the tiny ringing sound of that bell swinging from her neck. I could identify the urgency of her movements from the breath of that bell. I could zero in on her location in the house even if she wasn't making any noise, as long as she moved I could find her with my ears. It was always present, like her love, steady and true.
She died when I was five months pregnant with Tucker, who would have been her first grandchild. That bell was around my neck, singing its song of love and support when he came into the world. It was like having her voice with me saying:
"Don't stop. You can do this. I am here, all you have to do is listen for me.'
I rarely have cause to take it off but in one instance I did, for what reason I can't recall. During a move that our family made a few years ago, the necklace and I got separated somehow. I knew in my heart that I hadn't lost it, I rarely lose anything but I do misplace things. Of all the qualities that define me, organization is not one of them. Because of this, I can become separated from things, until they reappear, at which time I am usually heard saying 'Oh ya, that's where I put that!'.
In the case of my missing bell, my mom-in-law found it at the cottage, where Mike, the kids and I had lived while our house was being built. It was tucked away with a few other small trinkets, for safe keeping, no doubt.
The necklace has been part of my running journey, completing three marathons and a fourth on the horizon. It's not a good luck charm. It is much more than that, after all, neither life nor running is about luck. They are about preparation and optimism. In life and in running my Mom's bell is tireless in its mission to have me hear its message, her message that sounds like a steady heartbeat, as long as I keep moving forward:
'Don't stop. You can do this. I am here, all you have to do is listen for me.'
If you ever run with me or run past me, listen for my Mom's bell and you too will hear her message.
What helps you keep going when it gets tough out there?
|With 400 meter World Record Holder Michael Johnson|
|With friends at CRS/STWM speaker series|