A bittersweet anniversary and the homestretch of a bittersweet season

6 months ago this morning, I was sitting at my computer, happily looking forward to a trip to Italy, on which I was about to embark in just 2 days, when I received devastating news. I learned that my dear friend, Siobhan–with whom I had just reconnected a mere few weeks prior after many long years out of touch–had passed away from a hard-fought battle with ovarian cancer.

I’ve been reeling from this ever since.

There are good days and bad days. The good ones are where I remember the early days of our friendship when we would trade multiple emails a day, giggling about anything and everything and inspiring each other’s writing; the day we finally got to meet in person on–what else?–a trip to see the Star Wars Magic of Myth exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; and the day we finally got to reconnect after 8 long years, finding each other on Facebook and expressing joy at our paths crossing once again.

The bad days are when I remember the time in between, the many times I could have/should have tried harder to get back in touch, to find out her new email or look for her on Facebook when I first joined. I think of the years that we could have had for our friendship to grow even stronger than it already was–and those are the days when the loss of her hurts the most.

There are certain people who come into your life and no matter how short the time is that they stay in your life, their impact is immeasurable. It’s really best said with borrowed lyrics from the musical, Wicked, which we both loved dearly:

I’ve heard it said

That people come into our lives

For a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led to those

Who help us most to grow

If we let them

If we help them in return

Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today

Because I knew you

Like a comet pulled from orbit

As it passes the sun

Like a stream that meets a boulder

Halfway through the woods

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But… because I knew you

I have been changed for good

Siobhan has been the guiding force for me in a season that’s seen many triumphs for me. When the season started this past June, I honestly wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get through it, with the emotions still so raw and the loss still feeling so immense. Intellectually, I knew that the best way for me to deal with my grief was to channel it into something positive–for me, that meant doing what I’ve been doing for 5 years now: raising money to rid the world of this evil disease. Still, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to do that, now that I felt the cause hit so close to home.

But I did, and it’s no coincidence that I’ve experienced more breakthroughs this season than I’ve ever had since I first joined Team In Training all those years ago. People have asked me what I’ve been doing differently this year to make such leaps and bounds, and sadly, the answer is that I have a new guardian angel who’s pushing me in a way I’ve never been pushed. Would I trade that for a mediocre season? In a heartbeat.

I have a little over 5 weeks left in my training. As it winds down, I can’t help but reflect over the roller coaster ride it’s been. I know that future seasons will always be marked with a tinge of sadness for me, but I hope that there will be more good days than bad. That is, after all, what she would have wanted. She would have wanted all of us to live our lives to the fullest and experience everything full tilt–to do it for her, because she herself isn’t here to do so.

And so, I will. I will run my races in October with her memory in my heart, and I will remember to grasp each moment as if it’s my last. She would expect no less of me.

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