The Olympics and My Little Niece

Two weeks ago, my little niece came to DC for a visit. I haven't seen Rowan since January andboy, oh, boyshe has grown! Now that she has turned four, all of her baby-ness is gone. No more pacifiers. No more training potties. No more "Wonder Pets" or "Dora, the Explorer."

She's 100% girl.

Granted, Rowan is a little girl and sometimes she still cries. Sometimes she still pouts. But she has blossomed into a tiny adult, with opinions and ideas and definite preferences (mostly for the color pink).

{Rowan at a playground near my house.}
{Rowan and Auntie Caroline.}

Rowan's visit to DC coincided with the opening of the Olympic Games, which is just about my favorite thing EVAR. (Seriously, I am obsessed with the Olympics! My love for it is so great that I will watch anything, be it skeet shooting or wrestling or dressage.) Always the good sport, little Rowie watched a few volleyball games and gymnastic meets with me, even though she had no idea what was going on.

I don't know what it is, but the Olympics always makes me weepy. The Parade of Nations? The new world records? The cheesy behind-the-scenes stories on NBC? Yeah, they all bring tears to my eyes. But during this year's Olympics, a certain commercial tore a seam right through my heart:

It's the end tagline that gets to me:

The hardest job in the world, 
is the best job in the world.
Thank you, Mom. 

That last sentence makes my eyes well. Because my little niece Rowan, who is so sweet and smart and wonderful, no longer has a mom. My sister-in-law Aimee passed away last December, torn from our lives in an awful boating accident. In the span of one sunny afternoon, my husband lost his only sister. Aimee's husband lost his wife. And Rowan lost her mother.

So, I suppose, this commercial has a different meaning to me. Of course, I'm grateful for the thousands of mothers who help their children become Olympic athletes, because those athletes inspire us to try harder, to dig deeper, to push forward through pain and loss.

But at the same time, I mourn for Rowan, who lost her mother far, far too soon. Aimee was the very best person that I knewpatient, funny, and with a smile that could brighten your souland she was the very best mother to Rowan. She's been gone now for nearly nine months, but commercials like this one remind me of what we have lost. And especially of what Rowan was robbed of.

Still, as silly as it sounds, the Olympics give me hope, with its cheesy music and never-give-up stories. Rowan gives me hope too, with her zeal for life and with her bright white smile that reminds me so much of her mother's. She's a survivor, my niece.

I just wish it didn't have to be this way.