A most beautiful pain

December 3, 2015
I saw a man down on the ground fighting for his life. I was a passerby for one of the most gut-wrenching, heart-aching moments one family probably ever faced, and it won’t leave me. It seems the universe is peeking around every corner lately, sending me evidence that life is fleeting and fragile and fast.

We were about 2 miles into the Galloping Gobbler race on Thursday. I ran with Britni (who you might recognize from my half marathon posts) and my friend Jackie, who happens to be a nurse. We were coming up to a turn when we heard, “Get to your left! Stay to your left! To the left, folks! Keep to the left!” There was a group of people, likely some of them family, standing around and a bit of motion near the ground caught my eye. A gentleman, probably in his 40s, was down on the ground and another person was performing chest compressions. I’ve never seen someone in such a severe situation; teetering on the edge of life. Jackie calmly explained that there were already plenty of people assisting and as we made the turn she thought she saw his arm move. Shortly after, the ambulance and fire truck arrived. The rest of that day and each day since, I’ve thought about that man. I’ve thought about this stranger and imagined a scenario, not knowing whether it’s his truth. I imagine his family signing up for a fun race, maybe it was even their Thanksgiving tradition. I imagine them coming out on that beautiful, unseasonably warm morning, taking a group photo and smiling. And then the unimaginable just struck through them. I’ve asked around and heard he is alright, which is a huge relief, but I just can’t get the image out of my mind. Hundreds of people running around one man’s tragedy; A constant motion while one family’s life stood completely, startlingly still.


But like I said, the weight of life has been on my mind a lot lately. Researching a story, I recently visited a needleworking group. These women contribute intricate, hand-crafted blankets, hats and shawls to perfect strangers and want nothing more than the feeling of being needed and valued in return. I spoke with several of them one on one. I asked questions like, “How long have you been crocheting?” “Who taught you?” and “What’s the one piece you treasure most?” I looked into their eyes, the nucleus of their worn, wonderful faces, and I watched them relive the facts as they searched for answers. They recalled grandmothers and aunts, moments spent crafting precious blankets for first grandchildren, and time spent in the meditation of their craft after the passing of partners. I spoke about my girls and each lit up like they’d held each one of them in their arms. They would say, “Enjoy it, dear.” and “It just goes so fast.” and “Ah, bless you.” And I felt it. I felt how fast it is going to go.

We had several friends facing their first holiday without a parent or grandparent this year. When I sat down the other night to write about my own traditions, it wasn’t lost on me how so many of the people I loved were going to have to make new ones in the absence of their mom or dad. We take Christmas morning for granted. We do. We take our phone calls and potato salad recipes and hugs completely as they come without considering what an original treasure we have. One of our friends, who lost his mom way too young earlier this year, put out a beautiful post about how he’d come to realize that to avoid the pain of losing his mother, the gift of ever knowing her would have to be taken away, and so he would take the pain.

Last week I was helping someone work on a piece to remember their grandmother and it got me thinking about what makes us. How, in the end, we are truly composed of ten trillion tiny moments and a million memories. How we pick up and carry our children’s memories for them, before they are ready to hold onto them. I thought about the thread and fabric of a person’s soul and how it’s woven from people and words and laughter. That’s what really matters. That’s the good stuff that makes every worthwhile wrinkle and scar worthy of a story.

With the reality of loss constantly looming, all I can do is be thankful for this life. For the people who fill its hours and the gifts I have been given. I hope I can accept what I can’t hold on to and cherish the memories I can. I hope I can make waves and ripples of positive change. And mostly I hope I can be the kind of person who’s worth the pain, because receiving love like that is the most beautiful thing there is.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Ashlie December 3, 2015 at 3:03 am

    Seriously. Write a book already. Everything you spit out is pure gold and beautifully written. I’m not just saying that. I have many “writer” friends who I’d say are total crap. But seriously. Book it.

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