Thursday, February 19, 2009


The last couple of months have been rather sobering for me. A couple of days before Christmas, as I was mourning the loss of a friend's teen aged son, killed in a car accident, I got the news that my last surviving grandparent, my sweet 90-year old grandmother had fallen ill and was hospitalized. She peacefully passed away two days later on a snowy Christmas Day surrounded by her family. I wasn't able to see her myself before she died, but attended the funeral and burial services and was greatly comforted by them.

Last week, I got a call from my sister that my own father-- a true hero to me-- had been taken by ambulance to the hospital because of severe faintness and shortness of breath. What had been recently diagnosed as a bronchial infection turned out to be something much more serious: two large blood clots in his lungs. Doctors had no reservations about telling us he was lucky to still be here. Thankfully, his condition was treated in time and after a six-day stay in the ICU, he was released to begin a lengthy recovery at home.

I've had a lot to ponder the last couple of months, to say the least.

About three weeks ago, I stepped out to do a long weekend run. I knew I wanted to run between 10-12 miles--depending on how things felt-- but didn't really have a specific route in mind. I just started running and turned where I felt like turning. My legs were cooperating nicely that day and before I knew it, I was approaching six miles. Interestingly, my subconscious route lead me to a local cemetery. I'd been there several times before, so it wasn't foreign territory. I'd biked past it often last fall on my long bike rides, but very rarely have I run past it. I wasn't quite sure why my legs had carried me there that day.

Instead of turning around to head back home at the gate of the cemetery, I ventured in. I've always found cemeteries to be rather fascinating; I think I could spend hours in any given cemetery just studying the gravestones, reading the names and dates and wondering what kind of lives the people lead who were laid to rest there. Who were they? What was their story? What was their passion?

On the morning of my run, the ground of the cemetery was covered in several feet of snow. I had my ice cleats on and while they didn't keep me from sinking into the powder, I at least had a little bit of traction underneath me. I slowed to a jog and circled the entire cemetery, taking deep plunging steps into the snowbanks and inhaling the peaceful quiet of the air. I passed the gravestone of a 17-year old girl I had worked with closely a few years ago who was also tragically killed in a car accident the night of her Homecoming date. I vividly remember visiting her grave by myself shortly after she was buried, kneeling on the grass and just blankly staring at the headstone for several minutes in a numb funk, questioning how something so tragic could happen to such a vibrant young woman with so much life to live ahead of her. Running past her grave brought pangs of sadness as I realized I still missed her.

After my detour through the cemetery, I stepped back outside the gates and stopped to drink and have a snack. My breathing was pretty labored after the strenuous work of forging through the snow. Slowly but surely it calmed and as my gaze turned back to the cemetery behind me, I suddenly felt a distinct wave of peace and gratitude. Gratitude for my life and the blessings I've been given. Gratitude for the people who have crossed my path over the years and have touched my life for good. Gratitude for the opportunities I have to a postive influence to those around me. Just plain gratitude.

It took a 12 mile run in the snow and around a cemetery to remind me that life really is good, even when it's really rough.

And it always marches on.


Anonymous said...

I used to make my four-milers true four milers by running all the way around the path that winds through the cemetary that's just under 2 miles from my house. Early morning was my favorite time to go. It's so quiet without cars buzzing around. Every time I enterd it I thought to myself. "I'm coming here this time because I want to be here... You'll get me someday, Cemetary... not full-time just yet tho." and then press through the gates. It gave me plenty of time to reflect and count my blessings as I ran past so many headstones. Suddenly my problems became so insignificant. I've always enjoyed the reflection part of running for that reason. Glad to hear your dad is ok. Not just yet, Cemetary... there's obviously more work for him here.

TNTcoach Ken said...

Great post, it's good to look back and reflect.

Melanie and the Boys said...

I came across your Blog and really could identify with this post. Since mid 2007 we have lost 7 people in my family. Death makes the living feel helpless but appreciative at the same time. It is a weird dynamic. I have never run through a cemetary, but I can see how it would be a great place to reflect.

All the best,


Mel said...

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this.

zanne said...

great post tall girl. thanks for sharing.

glad to hear your dad is ok.

Christie said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes it takes something like death or an illness to show to teach us something. I'm sorry to hear about your grandmom and your friend. But I'm glad your dad's okay.

Allen said...

I'm sorry to hear about your father having blood clots, but I'm glad he is recovering. About a month ago, I woke up from a nap (having run 20 miles the week before and walked 1.5 miles that morning) and found I couldn't walk more than 50 feet without getting tired. I was diagnosed as having quite a few blood clots in my legs, and I spent 5 days in the hospital and the past month in therapy for swelling (I had 28 pounds of fluid in my body). I'm just about finished with the therapy and will soon be wearing special compression socks for the next couple of years, and I'm on Coumidan probably for the rest of my life. Life is fragile, and I just take it a day at a time and am thankful for each day.

Ovens2Betsy said...

Angie -- wow, what a timely post. Yesterday I got a call that a personal chef friend of mine died from a pulmonary embolism (he was only 64). I'm in total shock. I was so looking forward to seeing him at our conference in July. I'm running a 50K tomorrow and will be loading up my iPod with songs from New Jersey artists as he was a Jersey boy.

I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother, but happy to hear your dad is doing okay. Take care, my friend.

robison52 said...

I pray for your father's continuing recovery. Your blog helped remind me how fortunate my wife wasn't diagnosed for cancer from her huge cyst (football size) last week. I needed to read your words to realize how lucky I am!!

Laurel said...

What a post. Thank you for sharing it. I'm so sorry you have had such a crappy start to your year, but I am so glad to hear your dad is getting better.

Stacey said...

That was a great post! Thanks for sharing. It is nice to be able to run and be alone with your thoughts and reflect on life. Glad your Dad is doing better.

Jen said...

You're such a talented writer. I don't know if I'd be able to put into words such deep emotions. But thanks for sharing it. Running is therapy and clears the mind and makes you grateful for life, even when it rough.