Sunday April 18th, 2010 dawned sunny and warm, a perfect day to step out and walk ten kilometres to help end MS. Like the seventeen years before, I laced up my sneakers, ready to take on the world. Ok, maybe not the world, but certainly the park.
I’ve walked many years in the Walk to End MS. But this year, 2010 will stand out from the rest, no matter how many times I walk.
My first grandchild, Joshua, at the tender age of nine months, joined me in my fight against MS.
His mom, Kathleen, was a little girl – just seven years old – when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She joined me every year in the MS Walk in my fight against this insidious disease. She walked with me, supporting me. As she grew, she would ask teachers, aunts, uncles, brownie and guide leaders, youth pastors, and the moms and dads of friends to pledge her, raising money to help find a cure, not only for her mom, but for the hundreds of thousands who live with MS around the world.
Now, Joshua, her own little boy draws alongside. He has taken up the gauntlet. He has joined the team. His young life represents all that is good and fine in the world. He has the exuberance and innocence of youth. His life spreads out before him in unwritten childlike pages, unmarked by disease, disappointment, and heartache.
Of course, at nine months of age, Josh had not mastered the finer details of walking, so he strolled beside me with his mom and dad joining him in his quest. But since that sunny day, he has learned to step out on his own. His delight in newfound mobility is contagious as we watch him toddle across the room squealing and revelling in his freedom.
But as his legs grow stronger, we remember those with MS who can no longer walk. As his body learns to run, to skip, to jump, we remember those who long to stand.
2010 will be etched into our collective memory for another reason, too. That sunny, bright morning, while we walked and rolled through Thomson Park in Scarborough, Josh’s Grandma Lorna was admitted to hospital in Etobicoke, and sadly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She would die just four weeks later.
Lorna was 51.
Lorna’s tragic death brings home the eternal truth that as one generation passes on, the next generation steps in to take up the fight, pressing on to victory. Joshua and his generation will pick up the waning flag, and strive to help the multitude of people around the globe who cannot help themselves, whether they live with cancer or multiple sclerosis.
Many lessons were available to learn that morning – lessons of life that every human being who has the privilege of living should understand and take to heart. Lessons that include appreciating the brevity of life, the significance of a simple stroll in a park, the joy of the sun warm against a chilled cheek, and the communion with family and friends united in a cause.
Yes, 2010 will be a year to remember.
Together we can end MS!