Ma and Popa

This Time MA Is My Pebble

My mother was diagnosed with ALS upon returning from our 2015 coast-to-coast Wainwright Walk. What perfect timing! She started being tested for neurological issues before the 192 mile hike, trying to figure out why her feet were becoming numb. We had no idea what was coming, and that ignorance was bliss. She wouldn’t have risked the trip, possibly ruining it for anyone else. So in hindsight her presence in Northern England was a gift to us.

Within hours of stepping off the train in St. Bees 7 years ago, Ma met my friends for the first time down at the beach. Maurice, Eric, and I polar bear swam in the Irish Sea, Seth looking on in amusement, while Ma and Ealish filmed us for posterity. This would be the beach where we’d kick off 16 days of “walking” the next morning, my 40th birthday. Also where we’d select pebbles to transport to the finish line in Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea, a Wainwright tradition.

When my 100yo grandfather passed in October 2021, MA was done. She had been holding onto life with a tight grip so he wouldn’t outlive his daughter and mourn her loss. Indeed, she had made the most of the challenging life ALS gave her, surviving much longer than we could have hoped. She even became adept with VR in her final months! But MA left us just a few weeks after Papa in November 2021, with my brother Paul, sister Maggie, and me by her side.

MA travels so much more easily now!

This time back on the Cumbrian coast, I brought some of Ma’s cremation remains along in a jar. (Thanks, Maggie!) With Maurice, Eric, and I recreating that polar bear swim of 7 years ago, and Seth filming from the beach, I scattered half her ashes in the Irish Sea. The other half will hike along with me in my backpack for the coming week, in lieu of pebble, and then take another swim during a short side-trip to Robin Hood’s Bay after Hadrian’s Wall is finished.

After MA went half-in, the rest of us went all-in.

Seth concluded the celebration by raising a whisky toast to MA’s memory, with a fist-bump for Moe who doesn’t touch the stuff. We poured one out for MA, too, but a small one because she would have hated to waste even a drop!

Pour one out, but make it a small one. This stuff is good.

With that solemn mission behind us, we can head to the west end of Hadrian’s Wall, at Bowness-on-Solway, for Day 1 of hiking! MA’s packed up and ready. Are you?

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