The Race

Lisa Hesse

May 4th, 1998: having just completed my own race, I pin a race number for the Fun Run on the front of Logan’s T-shirt. His expression shows both wonderment and excitement, and briefly takes an extra second to register it in my mind. It is an expression everyone should wear just before running a race, participating in a sports event, or for any activity that requires us to "give it all" simply because we want to, and have been given the chance in life to do so. When was the last time I wore that expression? I am brought back to the task at hand by Logan. "Mom, how long is this race again?" I explain it is a mile long. I gently tell him this, it’s just an automatic mom thing to say. Logan doesn’t hear it. He loves these races; the thrill of the event and getting the medal at the end, no matter where in place he finishes. Getting ready to start the race, he rushes off to find his father, the chaperone in this event. I station myself with the camera, ready for the Kodak moment.

Flashback: January 27th, 1998. I button the last button on Logan’s hospital gown as the doctor who is going to "help him take a little nap" takes his hand. Logan’s expression shows a state of calm anxiety; deep down he knows he is in good hands. I take a deep breath and realize that my stomach is one huge knot, and I register Logan’s expression in my mind; I need to take my cue from him. I look him square in the eye and say" I love you Logan." This is more important that anything else going on in that room at the moment and I need him to look me in the eye and hear the word. He says "I love you too, mom" and takes the doctor’s hand as they walk through the double doors. It is said that running a marathon takes a tremendous amount of mental strength, and I am hoping now that this mental toughness I supposedly have is with me today. The emptiness and fear that envelopes me is more that I can take and I sink down in a chair. Then I concentrate on Logan. The doctor said the surgery would be 8 to 15 hours. There is the slightest chance, as in any surgery, that he will not survive, but that is not in my reality. There is a far greater chance that he will be unable to walk when he leaves this hospital. They are taking an orange-sized tumor out of his brain and the complications of the tumor and the surgery are yet to be known. As we begin our wait, I make a mental picture of Logan doing one of his favorite activities: Going to the track and running the 100 yard dash. In this picture, I am standing at one end, he at the other, and when I say "go!" he runs with the reckless abandon of all seven-year-olds. His arms propel him through the air, his legs are stretching with each step, and his eyes are focused on the line he must cross. In this picture he is healthy, happy and running.

Fast forward: the May 4th Fun Run starts with a bell and the children begin to run. I see Logan’s brother, 2 years older and the competitive one, straining to remain one of the first. I get the camera ready as I prepare for Logan to pass. And then I see him. He is also straining to stay with the pack, but in a different way. He doesn’t have his brother’s illusions that he might win; instead, he is running because he can. I am ready to take the picture, but I can’t. I can see through my tears as Logan passes by, completely oblivious to me on the side - he is focusing on his race.

At the finish line, after most of the children have finished, the stragglers are beginning to come in. Logan is one of them and his older brother and friends line up at the finish to cheer him on. Many people there that day know what Logan had been through only a few months before. We are ready to see him walking, but as he rounds the corner he is running full force. The cheers from the sidelines carry him on. "Go, Logan GO!" This time I am able to catch the moment on camera. He is crossing the finish line with a broad smile stretching from ear to ear. It is the picture of a champion. A medal is placed around his neck and he runs up to me, "Mom, did you see me? did you see I got the gold medal?" I reach down and give him a huge hug, and congratulate him on his race. He rushes off to his friends and his brother, and I watch him run through the crowd. I know that he has done far more than simply run a race, and I find myself chanting again, "Go Logan, Go."

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