It is about to begin, the final race with Canada’s Knot A Breast once again in Lane 3. They are competing with four other world teams, two from USA, New Zealand, and Italy’s Florence team. One side of the riverbank is filled with a cornucopia of supporters, while the opposite side is swarmed with participants forming a pink blanket nestled around the Arno River. The spectators are charged with raw emotion. I stand beside my husband, nestled between him and my friend’s son. John squeezes my hand and I observe the emotion in his eyes as the horn blows to begin the race. Everything changes, time morphs and seems to move slowly as the dragon boats blast out of the start-gate. Seconds seem like minutes, or more, when presto, in Lane 3 the KAB boat pushes ahead. A jolt of energy blasts through my body as the crowd roars with excitement. Like a gazelle, I leap over the bodies sitting alongside the river, as I keep my eyes focused on Lane 3, screaming while watching muscled arms pulling the boat further ahead. They are going to win. They are going to win. The nose of the KAB boat is pushing further ahead with a solid lead as it crosses the finish line. I am halfway up the riverbank and want to jump in that boat and hug my dearest and best friend. I realize then that I am far away from where we were standing, so I leap back, pushing through the applauding bodies who block my way.

Hugging, laughing, crying, rejoicing with our family and friends, we form a conglomerate glued together by enormous pride and joy. My friend’s son tells me that watching me leap along the riverbank reminded him of his mother’s energy on steroids! And then the Knot A Breast boat moves towards us as they raise their paddles in glorious victory and point to their supporters, specifically calling out our names. My husband had made an anonymous donation to the team, choosing to bring opportunity and recognition to the team members. Yet at that moment, my friend pointed us out and then placed her hands over her heart while she leaned towards her teammates. It was apparent that she was telling them of his contribution. This act humbled John who stood speechless with tears streaming down his face. Enormous emotions gripped my heart overwhelming me to the point of speechlessness that, for anyone who knows me, is a rare occurrence! And then my friend called out my mother’s name as she pounded her heart over and over again! In that action, I do not think I have ever felt such numb, tingling, raw emotion. Two years later, reflecting upon my experience of the IBCPC Festival in Florence, I am still aware of the magnitude of this event. I felt my mother’s presence in that final, victorious race, and in the grand finale of the flower ceremony. I know she was with me. I also felt tidal waves of emotions and respect for the Knot A Breast team members, supporters, and Coach Kathy.