Memories are intrinsically linked to our senses. So much so that sensory stimulation can instantly trigger a memory, and when it happens, it invariably catches me off guard.
For example, the second I pull on to I-84 headed east, I immediately think about my childhood home. My brain is flooded with memories of things I never think of otherwise. Another example is how “Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes makes me feel like I’m twenty, living in a crappy apartment with my cousin and loving everything about it.
A more recent memory link for me is riding a bike. I rediscovered my love of biking a few years ago and my friend and I spent our weekends adding miles and miles to our bikes. Now, any time I see a bike, ride a bike, think about riding a bike, I think about my friend.
You see, my riding partner was diagnosed with an extremely fast growing, aggressive form of breast cancer. The moment she told me is very clear in my memory. We were at the end of a ride around Frenchman’s Bar, and she invited me to sit on a bench near the river. There, she very plainly told me what her doctor had found and what it might mean. She didn’t know any details yet about how advanced it was or how it would affect her body.
Since that day, she’s stopped working and will likely never return. She’s lost her hair, her balance, and her physical strength. However, she hasn’t lost her spirit, her will to live, and her emotional strength.
My friend is a fighter.
The changes to her life, and mine by extension, were immediate, and, if we were to look at a map of her life, there is a clear line between her life before and her life after cancer.
I’ve only gone on a handful of rides since then, adding as many miles in years as I would have in days prior to her diagnosis. Sure, I wanted to ride, but, as I mentioned up there, the slightest glimpse of a bike reminds me of my friend. And I mourn the loss of that shared experience.
A few weeks ago, I finally talked to her about it. And, because she is gracious and kind in a way I probably never will be, she encouraged me to ride. She said I should ride to honor her. I should ride because she can’t. And I should take her with me on those rides.
And so, I’m going to. To mark my change in perspective, I picked up a new bike.
And I’ve set a new challenge for myself. My goal is to bike 2016 miles in the year 2016. I’ve got a month or so to warm myself up. In fact, today the weather is gorgeous and inviting in a way that shouldn’t happen in November. If you see a woman riding alone on the trails of Vancouver, that’ll be me.
Except I’m not alone. My friend is with me; you just can’t see her.