The Rapidian

Where I Want to Be When I Go

Underwriting support from:

/"bokelion" Yolanda Gonzalez

When I pray, which is usually as I drift off to sleep, I almost always thank God for my good health and my ability to run. Sure, there are other things I am thankful for: a good job, a great husband, my kids who challenge and delight me, true friends and the amazing world around me. Most of my prayers are thankful ones. I realize the good fortune in my life. The decisions I've made and those my parents made for me shaped my life into one that is pretty darn good and I'm always thankful and aware that a good life can be undone in a moment's time.

On Sunday I ran the Metro Health Grand Rapids Half Marathon. It was a wonderful race. I enjoyed the people I met along the way; seeing the changing colors of the trees; the cheers of strangers I passed along the course and the solitude of the last few miles. Running is the most relaxing and taxing activity I do. I love the physicality of a good hard run and the mind-clearing it does. I've run for almost 23 years now. I run almost every day, outdoors in all weather and at the pre-dawn hour of 5 a.m. I ran the morning of the day my son Noah died. I ran the day after his death too and I ran on the day of his funeral. I learned that I could run and cry at the same time. It isn't easy, but if I hadn't run I would have been even more unhappy. To give it up on those days would have been to deny who I am. I am a runner.

Sometime after I completed the Grand Rapids race, I heard about the runners who died on the course at the Detroit Free Press Marathon. Runners don't die often in races, less than .08 in 100,000 runners. The Detroit deaths were an anomaly. But, it weighed on my mind that day. I thought about the men, 26, 36 and 65 in age. I imagined one just starting out in life; the other maybe with a few kids and a family and the older fellow is probably a grandpa. Simply sad. My heart aches for their families and friends.

But I also thought about how they died. All were, or had been running. That's good. I want to die doing something I love. I hope my family would be content to know if I did die running, I would have died happy. I hope not to die at my desk in my office, cleaning my house, commuting to work or trying to sort out my checkbook. Not that I hate these things, but I want to pass into the next world with my last moments being good ones. I'd be okay with dying on the run, reading a book, eating something really wonderful with a few friends or swimming in some warm Caribbean waters. I know, we don't choose where and when. But three guys passed suddenly while running, that's a pretty good passage in my mind.

I heard about Drew Storey's death Monday. Drew was 31 years old. That's really too young to die. I have a pretty pragmatic view of death, but what I never can never fully accept is when people younger than me or people my own age die. In the 1980s I had two close friends die from AIDS. The death of a peer is very disturbing, it upsets the norm we have in our heads about death. Old people die, we expect our grandparents, aunts, uncles and older parents to go before us. We never get used to friends dying and we never ever forget the name of the kid who died when we were a kid ourselves.

I don't know what Drew was doing when he died. Maybe having a beer, or goofing around with his girls. Perhaps he was puttering around the house or maybe telling his wife about the Thanksgiving Eve bash he was planning for The Rapidian crew. I hope that whatever it was he was up to, it was something he wanted to be doing or--even better--something he loved to do.

Life speeds by. The most important thing we can do in this life is hedge our bets and spend as much time as we can doing what we really love. Work at something you love and spend the rest of the time doing that which you honestly enjoy. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and the kind of times you don't want to forget.

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Thank you for writing and sharing this.

Roberta, this is lovely. Thank you for a beautiful reflection.  

Eloquent and inspiring, Roberta.  Thank you for sharing.


Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself ( I didn't know you lost your own child, I can't imagine how that must have felt ). I often think about it when children die, how must the parents feel. To watch your own child die before your eyes, I can't believe I could ever live through it (but you are proof that it is possible).

I admire your courage and am humbled by your strength. Thanks again for sharing Roberta!

Your veggie friend,