My Sister’s Chi

Me, Chris, Meg, Jeanne

Today Chris would have celebrated her 65th birthday. Instead, those of us who love her are remembering her and honoring her, as sad as we are.

But she’s also still here.  Chris was a committed practitioner of Qigong — postures, movement and breathing to bring life force in to your being for health and vitality. The name comes from two Chinese words: qi (or ch’i or chi) means the life force or energy that flows through all of us and everything, and gong means skill cultivated through practice.

Chris thought a lot about chi, about the life force, about how we’re all connected.  When she died, her chi didn’t disappear because her energy wasn’t bound by her body.  It flowed in to the life force that’s everywhere.  I used some of that chi today.

Sam did a 20k trail run two weekends ago — that’s over 18 miles, up and down mountains, on scrambly trails, not an easy run.  When he called, excited by how well he’d done, he told me how he uses chi when he runs — his own version of chi running.  When he’s in the flow and feeling good, he stores chi to use later if some part of him starts to hurt or if he’s lagging.  If someone passes him, moving smooth and fast and clearly in a good zone, Sam thinks, “Well that person has some chi to spare.  I’ll take a bit of that.”  Then he uses stored chi or borrowed chi to send to an aching knee or tired legs.

I loved the idea and thought of it today, just under 8 miles in to what I hoped would be at least a 10 mile run.  My knee hasn’t completely healed from whatever made it so cranky during the NYC half-marathon in March, and though I have another half-marathon to run in a little over a week, I haven’t been running much, wanting to give my knee time to rest.

The rest has been working.  Last week I was able to run over 7 miles without knee pain, the first time I’ve run more than 3 or 4 miles in many weeks.  I wanted to add 3 miles to that today, thinking that would mean only adding another 3 next weekend to do the half-marathon.

Heading into that 8th mile my legs were tired and my knee was cranking up.  And then I thought about it being Chris’s birthday and the energy she left behind, so much life force still to be used, and I concentrated on pulling her chi into me.  I felt a tingling rush of warmth through my body and Chris was right there, hovering over me as I ran another 2 miles — 10.2 miles, exactly what I’d hoped to do.

I’ve been texting with my sisters Meg and Jeanne today, touching base on this sad and happy day (the 6th birthday of one of Jeanne’s grandsons), and when I told them about my run my sister Meg reminded me it’s everyone’s chi.  Universal energy.  “We are all one,” as it says on Chris’s memorial bench.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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