Sunday, April 12, 2015

Finish Strong

I've never bailed on a race before. I register/pay, I train (hopefully well), and I drag my ass out to the starting line and go; even when I don't want to. I was always taught that you must finish what you start.

Well, today for the first time, I bailed on my race. I was supposed to run the Negative Split Half Marathon, but I couldn't find my strong through my tears. I was disappointed in myself and knew I had people who were cheering me on (thank you). I had a friend, Traci, who was running in memory of her husband Aaron who she also lost to Leukemia similar to my friend Andrea.  (Photo: Pre-race photo of Traci in her memorial shirt.)

I was well supported on the outside, but my heart wasn't in it. I felt like I was letting so many people down.

I'd woken up early, gone through my race prep routine, gotten dressed, and when it came time to leave the house, I just couldn't do it. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from Andrea's memorial service yesterday and my heart still hurt. 

I knew my 8-year-old son would also be disappointed as I'd promised him I'd bring him home another medal. Instead, with all my race clothes still on, I climbed back in bed and closed my eyes. 

When my son woke up and saw me he was so excited, thinking I'd already finished my race. I told him I was very sorry, but I didn't feel well enough to run 13.1 miles today.  To my surprise, instead of being sad, he hugged me and said, "I love having you more than a medal." I burst into tears at the power of those words. 

In the meantime, my friend Traci found her superpower STRONG, and ran an honorable 2:14 race! Afterwords she texted me, "Sister, I had a 36-year-old guardian angel use me as her pacer.  It was her first half marathon...but she was a God Send...At mile 12 we introduced ourselves, LOL...[her name was] Michelle."

Later in the day, I was glancing at Facebook and saw that my Facebook friend, Shannon, had posted pictures of her friend crossing the finish line of the same race today. Her friends name? Yep, you guessed it: Michelle! And there was Traci with her in the photo as they crossed the finish line! Small world! (You should have seen my face when I saw the picture and texted Traci to tell her!)

Traci and Michelle have now connected on Facebook, thanks to their angels! Here's Traci with her finisher medal!

Someday, I will be as strong as Traci and run a race in Andrea's honor. Unfortunately, that race wasn't today. Thanks for all the prayers, miles, cheers, and virtual hugs. They mean a lot to me! Soon, I'll find my strong again....

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Keep On, Keeping On

I believe God has a plan for every one of us. However, that doesn't help lesson the pain when you are grieving a loss. God took home another beautiful angel this week on Holy Saturday relieving her of her fight with Multiple Myeloma/Leukemia.  His new angel is a spunky, witty, talented, athletic, woman named Andrea, and with her new wings I imagine her flying around like she is Wonder Woman.

My purpose in writing this blog is not to wallow in sorrow, but to honor the grieving process and love on those who were closest to Andrea. As everyone processes differently, I will never question how someone reacts to grief. I just pray that my friends have more happy days than sad days and more energy filled days than angry "why" days. I pray they move through the whole grief process and don't get stuck along the journey. 

Andrea has crossed the ultimate finish line, and before doing so positively impacted so many lives including mine. I was lucky enough to meet her when my cousin, Cathy, signed us up to run a marathon relay together a few years ago. Our team was bundled up in a car for hours on a cold day as we each waited for our turn to run. Andrea kept us laughing and cheering with her wicked-funny humor and positive encouragement of others.

I was lucky enough to run more races with Andrea, including suffering through almost 3 hours of negative degree weather at the Snake River Half Marathon, and having her swat me on the butt with a "come on, girl, let's do this" in the last two miles of the Coeur d'Alene Half Marathon (which she went on to beat me)! 

As her supporters, we dedicated races and triathlons to Andrea. 

Her friend ran over 140 miles as a one-man relay for charity to raise money for her medical treatments! More friends designed and sold shirts and held a charity race. (Props to Ben at Tran Creative for his shirt design and photos of Andrea.)

Authors sent her a personally signed book to read in all her spare time at the hospital and during dialysis treatments. (Thanks to Jim and Anne Weatherill for donating their book, "The Blades Carry Me.")

She had so many visitors at the hospital they had to stop visitation so she could get some rest! (Once they were kind enough to let my boys and me sneak in to deliver a cookie bouquet we'd made for her.)  

I was lucky enough to pick her up and give her a ride in the "Batmobile" the day I got it and go to the Clark House to enjoy amazing food and entertainment.

Finally, I was blessed to ring in the 2015 new year with Andrea, Cathy, and friends.

Andrea gave it her all and lived up to her motto: "Keep on, keeping on."  That is how I want to live my life--to the fullest. I don't want to leave anything undone. No regrets. Every day is a gift and must be treated that way. Her friend, Ben, also made this amazing tribute to her:

Now, we must move through this and move forward. My heart and legs feel heavy, but I can only imagine the hurt her closest friends and family are feeling. I can't wait to see and hug my cousin, Cathy, again. 

We will all gather for a hike/run on Saturday in Andrea's honor and she will probably have it rain so she can have the last laugh. 😉

Meanwhile, we will all find our own way to honor her life and "keep on, keeping on."