Edwina Alfred Abraira
July 29, 1933 – May 6, 2016
Well, it is Mother’s Day and I am sad to announce that my Mom has passed away, just two days ago. I created this blog to share stories about running and how it has inspired me along the way, so it is actually a good day to tell everyone the story of my Mother, as she and my Dad always served as a big inspiration for my running.
My Mom was quite the runner, taking up the sport as she approached her 50th birthday in the early 1980’s as running was growing through the first boom. She won many age groups awards during her running career, in fact she picked up an age group award in almost every race she ever entered. Her and my Dad probably completed close to 400 races or so from 1982 until my Dad’s passing in 2007. They completed five full marathons, they ran Montreal four times during the middle 1980’s, and the National Capital Marathon in Ottawa in May 2005. When her and my Dad decided to enter that race, we were all a bit worried, but they walked the 26 miles 385 yards in style. 6h06 for my Mom and 6h21 for my Dad. She was close to her 72nd birthday for that marathon. She was an excellent athlete in general, but grew up in an era when women didn’t really participate in sports as much, and that’s okay; but it would have been great to see her as a young woman athlete in today’s era.
1992 – Lake Placid Half Marathon
My Mom also has an interesting personal story. She was born in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, just outside of Montreal; and grew up in a house that was expropriated for the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway system in the middle 1950’s. Her stories of swimming and life near the flat rocks along the river when she was young always flowed through our household as we grew up. It always had some sadness to it as this part of the territory is now disconnected to the village area of Kahnawake because the canal waterway runs in between.
My Mom’s father was James Alfred, a legendary lacrosse player of the 1930’s who was enshrined in the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1999. Clearly, she inherited her athletic abilities from him. Like many other Mohawk families did during the post-World War II era, my Grandfather brought the whole family down to live in Brooklyn NY while he worked on the high steel of the Manhattan sky-scrapers. And it was in Brooklyn one evening while out strolling for ice cream, that she met my Dad, then a recent immigrant from Cuba. Four children and a decade or so later, we were all back living in Kahnawake, my little sister came along in 1965.
My Mom was raised a Catholic, but really was the living embodiment of a Mohawk Clan Mother. She was the eldest child of six born to Florence Montour and my Grandfather. The Mohawk (part of the Iroquois Confederacy) are a matriarchal society where lineage is passed through the women. My Mom actually lost her status as an “Indian” when she married my Dad, and did not get it back until the government of Canada changed their laws in 1985. This issue only inspired her to be an even stronger woman as far as I can figure, she spoke of it a little but not too much, as she was simply too busy raising her children and taking care of the broader family clan. We were really blessed with so much good energy in and around our home. She was always there for us, we were always her priority in life. As a child I always felt very secure in our home, there was plenty of love, laughter, and fun; and the basics in terms of materials things were always covered. Children of my own came along, and even grandchildren to three of my siblings, she became their Mama, and through it all she remained the Matriarch.
Kahnawake Village – May 29, 1967
For some reason, the blessed Saint Kateri, the Creator, or whatever big-energy you believe in, felt it was part of the story to pass along to my Mom a neurodegenerative disorder that affected her cerebellum. This disorder slowly took away her ability to move; yet, she had complete awareness of everything around her. She gradually slowed down over the past 6-7 years; but, as was always her way, she simply made the best of it. I am not sure how a human being could have that much courage. She provided us all with moments of laughter right up to the end. Even in her last days she could still give us wink when she wanted us to wet her lips a little.
She now joins my Dad in the spirit world. I am pretty sure they are already out for a power-walk or an easy run. Rest in peace Mom, you will live on in our memories every day. You and Dad will be an inspiration to me at every starting line, during every race, and at every finish line, forever.
Happy Mother’s Day