Today I went for a 6 mile urban hike carrying a 35lb pack, with a whopping 766 ft elevation climb… Beacon Hill is the biggest mountain I can find in the city! I made a sign for my pack with my donation URL, hopefully that will get a few strangers looking at my page! The hike took me 2 hours, with an hour long coffee break / class in between segments. The hike was a little bit of a wakeup call. I haven’t been training with my pack as much as I should and man do my back and hips hurt! Also, the left strap rests right where I broke my collarbone when I was 14… I wonder if they make extra thick pads for that, because it really hurts after awhile.
The hike also got me thinking about some things… exercise tends to make me very introspective and philosophical, maybe that’s why I have always been drawn to sports as a coping mechanism? Anyway, as I neared mile 4 of my hike I went through Copley Square, where there is a memorial set up to the Boston Marathon bombing.
As I looked at all of the tributes and people there it made me reflect on the purpose of memorials in general. Of course that memorial is unique because of the circumstances, but it occurred to me that the loss of a life is tragic no matter what the cause. In “On Death and Dying” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross talks about how we think of death as a violent and treacherous act; we think that life is not lost, it is stolen from us. We all want someone to point the finger at to blame when someone dies. And those that are left behind that knew and loved the person want to shout as loud as we can that they were here, they were good people, they were loved, and they will not be forgotten. I think this is the real point of a memorial – an opportunity for those left to unite in their grief and shout as loud as they can – in anger at the person who did this to them and in loving memory of the person lost.
But how do you memorialize someone who died from a more common killer? There is no city to stand united with you, there is no person to point a finger at. How do you tell strangers what a great person the world lost? How do you make sure they aren’t forgotten?
My mountain climb is my memorial to my mom. Jane Winchell was here. She was a scout leader, a mom, a member of her community. She did good things, had a kind heart, and always told it like it was. She was loved and will never be forgotten. There may not be a public square filled with flowers and notes to honor her, but I will honor her memory the best I can. I will climb to the top of Shasta for her and proudly hold up the prayer flag with her name on it. I will tell her story to anyone that will listen, to honor her memory and to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention. In doing so I stand united with all of the other people who have lost loved ones to breast cancer and point my finger at the underlying causes of this disease. This is my way of shouting as loud as I can. This is my memorial.