100 people gathered in a parking lot at Bishop Ranch 8, San Ramon, California, to walk in support of people with Mitochondrial Disease. For the first time in the five years the walk had occurred, it rained. We stood together under shelters and awnings and waited. Every team had raised money, so we had to honor those pledges and walk. But it was cold and all the teams were missing members.
My daughter Rhia, the person on our team with Mitochondrial disease, sat in her wheelchair under her polka dot umbrella and cried. She wanted to walk, but hated the rain. Her hands were cold even in the pockets of her puffy, blue coat. Her dad finally loaded her in the car and drove her away to find hot chocolate and a movie. So there I stood, the sole member of Team Rhia after the rest of my team had cancelled the day before.
The announcer called Team Rhia to start walking. I stood beside her. She kept calling. I said, “Team Rhia right here,” and laughed. Then I stuck up my umbrella and walked the one mile route.
Other teams in matching t-shirts gathered and cheered each other. Maybe I should have been sad no one cheered for me, but walking alone was oddly peaceful. 2 wild geese watched me and honked as I passed the half way mark. “Welcome back,” I said and one goose flapped his enormous wings as if showing how far he’d travelled. Because it was just me I made good time and finished the 1 mile route in 15 minutes. Nice not to have to manage a team of wayward walkers.
Standing in the parking lot again under the shelter at the registration table, I watched as the teams slowly returned. That’s when I felt sad. Why were we doing this? Why were parents who had lost children showing up every year to walk around a business complex? Was this going to make any difference? I saw the parents who’s daughter had died last year at age 14. No cure soon enough for her. Would there be a cure for my daughter? For anyone’s loved one? Would the meager $400 dollars my tiny team had raised do any good?
What else can we do? We’re not doctors, or God. We are powerless to change what our children endure. Maybe walking alone in the rain looks pointless, but it gives us something to do and we support each other. We are all gathered together in a parking lot in San Ramon because for a few hours each year we are not alone. We have hope.
I opened my umbrella and made another lap.