While the rest of the world was counting down to the rapture that might or might not happen, we TNTers were gearing up for our favorite day of the year (ok, the second favorite day–I guess race day tops this one!): kick-off.
As adults, we get few opportunities to experience the excitement of back to school, when you’re reuniting with friends after a long break and eagerly looking forward to the next few months, full of adventure, learning, and lots and lots of hard work. Lucky for me, I do get to experience this, every time the summer season for Team In Training comes around. Today was no exception, as we welcomed new participants to the team and caught up with old friends. We also came together in honor of the cause that binds us all: the desire to rid the world of a monster called cancer.
In the course of today’s celebration, we paused to remember a fallen hero named Louie Bonpua, a Leukemia patient who defied the odds by completing an Iron Man (aka a 2 mile swim, 110 mile bike ride, and full marathon all in the same day!) while going through chemo. One of Louie’s good friends spoke today, to honor his friend who, as he recalled, inspired everyone whose paths had ever crossed with his–and even those who never even had the honor of meeting him.
As we watched clips of Louie in the last embers of his life, desperately ill and barely walking, but carrying the 2002 Olympic Torch as hundreds of his supporters walked with him, we all felt the profound impact of this man and there was not a single dry eye in the room. When asked why he did such crazy things as training for an Iron Man–which is a hard enough feat, even without the rigors of chemo–Louie had a simple answer: I’m still here. I’m still alive, and I’m going to do it as long as my body allows me.
His fierce attitude and refusal to let go of hope reminds me of another inspiration in my life, my dear friend Brittanie Siobhan, whose memory always weighs heavily on me when I think about why I am coming back for “more torture.” Like Louie, Britt never once succumbed to the belief that she wouldn’t be able to beat this demon. She fought it with every once of strength she had–and boy, did she have a lot. Till her last breath, she was a shining example of courage, grace, humor, and hope, and even now, as an angel, she continues to give me–and so many others who were privileged to know and love her–strength and courage.
I don’t think there will ever be a time when I won’t feel this hole in my heart because she was taken from us. But I also know that she’d be the first to tell me to take that sadness and use it as fuel to carry on in her example to live life to the fullest and leave as mighty an imprint in this world as she did in her all-too-brief 26 years.
So once again, I kick off this season with this: I hope I make you proud, Brittanie Siobhan. Fly with me, dragonfly.