Yesterday Ruth had the "Turkey Trot" at school. The kids (k-5) are divided into teams with a child from each grade. Then each grade group is taken one at a time to run their leg of the race. At "go!" They run the perimeter of the school yard and as they finish they're given a popsicle stick with their finishing place (Ruth got 11th out of nearly 75 kindergarteners). Each grade level runs together and at the end, their stick numbers are added up to find the team with the lowest score.
The night before we were talking to Ruth about it and encouraging her. She, of course, wanted to win the free turkey, which we said would be great, but we offered that the most important thing would be for her to be a good team mate and cheer for her team no matter what.
As the kids gathered and lined up, they were full of excitement and anticipation. When they were called, the kindergarteners ran up the hill to the starting point. And then when the coach yelled "go!" They charged down the hill and along the path. And I started to cry. I have no idea why. Maybe their exuberance? Their joy? Their little legs running? And then I saw Ruth about 3/4 of the way back running along. And I cried more. She just kept running and she kept passing other kids and got all the way up to 11th. My heart burst with joy. I was so proud of her.
As she ran by me I shouted, "Go Ruthie, go! You can do it! Keep going!" And it was like hearing my mother straight out of my mouth. She was a cheerleader. Not the pom pom kind (though she acquired those along the way) but the cheer-them-on loud, crazy kind. She cheered and she cheered for everyone. And she just kept cheering right from my heart for all the kids behind Ruth. "Good job guys! You can do it! Keep it up! You're doing great! You're almost there! Just a little farther!"
And my heart bust with pride for how my mom cheered on everyone and it broke with grief that she is gone. It made me miss her so much. And it made me overwhelmingly grateful for her example and who she raised me to be.