Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I Ride the Pan Mass Challenge: To Remember....

(In two days I will ride in my fourth Pan Mass Challenge, a statewide bike ride to raise funds for cancer care and research.  Here are some thoughts on why I ride, shared in the hope that you might one day ride, or donate or pray for us or just take a moment to remember the 577,910 Americans who died last year from cancer.  It is the second leading cause of death in the United States.)

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly, you hardly catch it going.”                 --Tennessee Williams

Dottie, Sue, Kathy and Nora: these are the four women I will ride on my bicycle for and “with” next weekend, in the 34th Pan Mass Challenge (PMC).

The details of the PMC are kind of cool.  The fact that folks who ride the full 188 mile route from the hills of Sturbridge to the dunes of Provincetown will circle their pedals 152,000 times in 48 hours.  The fact that 3,000 volunteers will support those of us on the bikes, doing everything from passing out cold water to fixing a flat tire, bringing to 8,000 people the number of people who make the PMC happen.  The fact that 230,000 folks will make a financial contribution to the PMC, the largest athletic fundraiser in the country, all in the mission to find a cure for cancer. The fact that by next Monday morning, the PMC will be well on its way to collecting $38 million in gifts for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, one-hundred percent of all donations going directly to the cause. The fact that 5,550 riders from 36 states and eight countries will participate in this amazing event which since its inception has raised $375 million dollars. 

That’s part of why we ride, why I ride, along with a host of other reasons. To get in shape.  To get away with wearing skin tight alien looking bike wear, Lycra as a fashion statement!  To keep at bay my middle age paunch, get up off the couch and do something.  To see beautiful New England scenery at the wonderful speed of 15 miles per hour. To use human energy alone to go so far. 

Some ride because they had cancer and so they want to show that their bodies still work and can beat the “big C”.  Some ride because their sister has breast cancer, their father colon cancer, their child brain cancer and they need, they want, they must do something good in the face of so much bad.  Some ride because their faith in God compels them or their faith in humanity or they have a deep desire to use their one life to bring a little mercy and kindness into a sometimes hard and even cruel world. 

And so I’ll plant my butt on a hard seat for upwards of eight, nine, even ten hours next Saturday. I’ll take a chance that my ride day might be sopping wet or humidly hot, depending on what wacky Bay State weather might pop up in the next two days. 

Most important I will ride in memory of Dottie, Sue, Kathy and Nora. That’s why I ride. 

In years past I rode for all four of them, as they faced into their disease: ovarian cancer, bladder cancer, cancer of the appendix, soft tissue cancer.  This year they are all gone, and so this PMC is a memory ride for me. In memory of them.

In celebration of who they were. In grief at what will never happen for them because they died too soon. In faith that as angels they are now in the heart of God but will somehow, absolutely, also be with me every single mile. In determination to carry their memory and their still living spirits on my bike, so that one day, a future generation won’t have to face cancer, won’t have to ride to beat cancer either. 

In memory.  Of a science teacher who for years inspired hundreds of students in the classroom and was a great Mom and tender companion and wife.  Of a mentor who taught me almost everything I know about being a good person and a good Christian and a good minister. Of a cousin who raised four beautiful children and loved her husband so much, who in less than five decades made God’s world a much better place. Of a middle school girl who was a fierce Red Sox fan and a loving daughter and big sister, who touched and changed the heart of the church I serve, the heart of the Universe too, in her one precious life.

That’s why I ride the PMC. That’s why we ride the PMC.  In hope. In service. In memory.  See you on the road this weekend!


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