Runners are a unique breed and I applaud their tenacity and endurance to lace up everyday to go the distance. I am told that once you start and get beyond your body’s resistance that the euphoria experienced while running and the subsequent rewards are addicting. Maybe you have heard it said that all runners are either running “from”, “for”, or “to” something. I was inspired to write on this topic by a friend of my wife and I. Her name is Connie and we have had the joy of knowing her for over 30 years now. I have asked her permission to share her journey that has involved intense pathos that was turned into surpassing passion.
Connie and her first husband Bennett were my wife and I’s best friends for many years. Thirteen years into her marriage to Bennett on a humid summer night, we received a call from her that devastated us. Bennett was an avid recreational sailor and had gone out on the lake they lived on with their thirteen year old son to ride the wind. To say that sailing was his passion is an understatement. When the winds were strong enough their catamaran would tilt up on one pontoon which added to the exhilaration of the riding the wind. On this particular evening, the conditions were perfect for this type of sailing and the unthinkable happened. Bennett, an experienced sailor and swimmer, was swept off the boat into the churning waters as the catamaran driven by the wind carried his young son toward shore. For hours we waited with Connie to hear that her husband and our friend had swam to shore only to hear the tragic news that he had drowned. The weeks and months that ensued were unlike anything we have ever experienced. Her grief and our feeble attempts to console her and her son are beyond the limits of this short blog to describe.
A few years passed and she found love again in another mutual friend of ours who we affectionately called “Bear”; because he was the epitome of a bear, robust in stature yet tender in demeanor. His name was Duane; we also called him Big D. Duane was a “never met a stranger kind of guy” and the best Italian chef we have ever known. His love for people and to prepare feast was a great joy to us all. Truly a man with a heart as big as his physique. Connie and Duane had another son and thirteen years later almost to the month we received the news that he had had a heart attack. After spending several weeks in ICU unable to respond to his friends and family, Duane passed away. We were all stunned that this man who had so much life left to live had left us.
I am sure you are wondering what these unimaginable losses have to do with running toward life. Connie has always been a very strong woman, but after being widowed twice and left with sons by both men was understandably hopeless. The irony of being married to both men for thirteen years and having sons with both of them left us all with more questions than answers. Not long after Duane’s death, Connie begin to experience heart palpations and went to a cardiologist. After interviewing her and conducting a series of tests, the doctor told her that her tests indicated there was no biological reason for her palpations. Knowing that she had been widowed twice, he told her his diagnosis was “broken heart syndrome.” He went on to explain that this syndrome is real and experienced by many that suffer such devastating loss and that if not treated was as life threatening as a heart attack.
Unwilling to use medication, Connie begin to search for alternate means to deal with her pain. Through divine connections she received regular doses of hope, but then she found running to be her new refuge. At first it was very difficult not having ever been involved in this kind of regimen. Over the last few months she has come to realize that she is not just running from the deaths of her two husbands, or running for her health. She is running toward life. Isaiah said that we would “run and not be weary” and Paul said to “run your race with patience.” She is doing just that. Her first marathon was the annual Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston S.C. The last time Connie had crossed this well known landmark of the south was in the wake of Duane’s death. Her mother-in-law was riding with her and she told her that she would never cross that bridge again due to painful weeks that had proceeded with her spending endless hours in the ICU. However, on April 2, 2011 she joined over 40,000 runners in the annual Cooper River Bridge 10K. My wife, her best friend of 35 years, joined her. On a cool and crisp Spring morning they rose well before dawn. Connie and my wife dressed in running attire and armed with their Mp3 players set out to experience a defining moment. When they crossed the finish line they discovered they were both listening to the same song. The bridge she had vowed to never cross again had become the bridge to a rhythm and reality. To date, she has run in several marathons and what lies before her is no longer overshadowed by her painful memories. Now it’s not about what she has lost, but what she has to gain. Jesus said He came to heal the broken hearted; not just those whose hearts have experienced arterial damage that is measured by an EKG, but by the immeasurable effects of loss. Run toward life