Monday, August 25, 2008


About a month before my Mom died, I started to see the number 111 everywhere.

I would wake up in the middle of the night, glance at the clock and it read 1:11. I would buy a raffle ticket and my ticket number was 111. I would receive messages on my cell phone at 1:11 and when I checked the minutes I spent on a phone call, it was 1:11 minutes.

At first, I chalked it up to coincidence but when it happened over and over again, it was clearly not just coincidence. My Mom asked me what I thought it meant and I said that I felt like we had family and friends who had passed away previously who were trying to let us know that they loved us and that it was going to be OK...they would be meeting Mom on the other side and they were so excited to finally be reunited with her at last. My family members thought I was crazy at first but, when they began to pay attention, both my father and my brother were seeing the number 111 too.

The kicker for us all came during a visit from Mom's hospice nurse. While she was taking Mom's vitals, I glanced down at the bed frame on my Mom's bed and there was a moving sticker still stuck to the bed frame. (You know the ones that look like this...)

My parents had moved into their current house about two years ago and evidently had missed removing this sticker. The number on that sticker on my Mom's bed was 111.

I almost fainted. When I showed it to Dad, he was dumbstruck and after that, my father had no doubts that it was more than coincidence. He just couldn't understand why, when he bought a lottery ticket with that number, he didn't win the jackpot...

A month or so after my Mom died, I continued to see the number 111 and I felt it was my Mom, at that point, letting me know she was OK. I saw it everywhere...on my bike computer, I saw it coming back from vacation when I had 111 emails, my total at the grocery store was $111 once and another time my change was $1.11. My Mom's funeral was held on the 11th of March at 11 o'clock. You get the idea.

This weekend, I swam, biked and ran in the IronGirl triathlon which is held in Columbia very close to where I live. My friend Maura has created a Women's Giving Circle and we raise money for underprivileged women and children in Howard County as part of our race. Last year, my Mom made a donation to the group and supported all 20 or so of us moms who were out there doing the "unthinkable". She was so proud of us, at our age, trying something new, something challenging because she wasn't sure she ever would have put herself through that...When she went with me last year to pick up my race packet, she wanted to buy a shirt that said "My Daughter is an IronGirl" and was disappointed when they were sold out.

My friend Maura had the t-shirts that we wore this year printed in Grammy Aqua but that wasn't the only surprise she had in store for me.

This year, I went to pick up my race packet with my husband. The day was bittersweet and I was feeling sad remembering last year when my Mom had gone with me. Outside, there was an alphabetical listing posted where you look up your name and find your race number so you can tell the person inside what your number is...

When I read that I was 111, I caught my breath. Then I remembered that my friend Maura knew the race director and she made sure I got this number and I felt a big "hug".

I went inside and walked up to the table where a man was standing behind the sign that read "Numbers 0-250 here". He says, "Hello, what's your number?" And I tried to speak but nothing came out, I choked and the tears began to pour down my face. I bawled. Not little tears mind you, they were big honking, heaving sobs. All my sadness and missing-my-mother erupted from within me and there was no stopping it...the floodgates were released and I poured out all over that poor man whose nametag said Dan.

At first Dan was too shocked to know what to do and finally asked, "Are you worried about the race tomorrow?" I shook my head vehemently no. I motioned for him to move on and just get me my packet so I could get away. He asked for my number again but I was crying too hard to tell him. That's when my husband stepped around from behind me and, in a choked up voice that broke when he said it, he said, "Her number is 111."

Yesterday morning I awoke at 5:00am to go to the race, this race where my number was 111.

I knew my Mom was with me, still thinking I'm nuts, but with me. And, I was fine...until I had to get my body marked...that's where someone puts your race number on your hands and your shoulders with black marker so they can identify you throughout the race. Again, the question came, "Your race number?" And this time, I didn't sob but tears started slipping down my face and I croaked out "111". So, I cried my way to my bike, pumped up my tires, wiped my face, got my goggles and swim cap, told my mother I loved her, and went on to have a beautiful day.

This is me and my friend Maura (one of the Ironmen I told you about before) who remembered my Mom this race.

She remembered that it would mean a lot to me if the t-shirts were in my mother's color. She remembered and requested that my race number be 111. In her incredibly busy schedule of organizing the Giving Circle, having us all over for dinner the night before, and participating in the race herself, she remembered that it was going to be a tough day for me and I would be missing my Mom.

It was such a beautiful and meaningful thing to do. When it feels like the rest of the world has moved on, it means so much when someone remembers, doesn't it? Someone remembered how hard it still is to have lost my Mom. I'll love her forever for that.

Here are some more pics from race day.

The IronGirl is a women-only event and the triathlon is the shortest one out there...0.5 mile swim, 17 mile bike and a 3.4 mile run.

Many women of all ages and sizes and athletic ability participate to just see if they can do it. It's a beautifully inspirational day, sometimes with three generations of women participating and passing the finish line together.

The day isn't about winning the race, it's about finishing. It's about stretching yourself to do something you didn't think you could. All along the race course, you hear words of encouragement, "You're doing great.", "Great job!" "You're making it..."

When passing one woman, I said, "I hope I'm still doing this when I'm 65..." At which point, a woman behind me says, "I hope I'm still doing this when I'm 30!!" Which made us all laugh...

They mark our ages on our calves and it's so incredible when you see women out there at 63 or 55 years of age...grandmothers. And you know their names because they're printed on our numbers. And it's so beautiful to see the younger girls at 14-18 completing their first race. Maybe next year you'll come to Baltimore and consider doing it with us.

There are free massages afterwards...

That's all for now...Gotta run!


Debra Dixon said...

Susan, I don't know what to say and yet I could fill a book with what to say. I still have days when I miss my son terribly. Today I'll take some of the grief and carry it for you--it can be a heavy load.

You are such an inspiration! Have you always been athletic?

You can bet your mom was telling everyone, "Hey, look that's MY daughter out there!" *wink*

Unknown said...


allie aller said...

Susan, you positively rock.
I am so proud of you!!!!

coral-seas said...

I must remember not to read your blog at work. All to often it reduces me to tears, sometimes of laughter and sometimes of shared pain. My colleagues wonder what is going on with me!

Your friend is awesome to think about you while preparing for her own race. You are both awesome taking part and succeeding. Well done.

I'll bet your Mum was grinning from ear to ear watching you.


Anonymous said...

I am tears reading this, it is so moving,I miss my mother so. She is often in my dreams and I often wonder why? Thank you for sharing this.

Cathy said...

What a wonderful story! YOU GO GIRL! I'm so happy your mom was there with you. I miss my mom terribly, too. I've had a number thing going since 1979 (when my second son was born) - the number is 1108. Time 11:08. Too many "coincidences" to name, but same kind of thing. 1108 = Shane. He is still with us here, thank goodness. Love your blog and your writing. Hugs, Cathy

carolyn said...

auntie susan, when we went to bruges there were people swimming a race in the canal that runs through the town and i thought of you!!!
i miss grammy every day too.
i love you!

Mougey Family said...

Susan, It amazed me when I was in Maryland the bond that the CMYM swim team has. I miss all of you and am glad to see your Irongirl race went well. I am also glad to hear you sported the number 111, what an honor. Sometimes it's the little things that make our day.

sheba said...

This is the same weekend I did my first triathlon and I thankfully wasn't last, but that was only becasue I made my supportive brother come in behind me. :) Powerful race report here. thanks for sharing.

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