I haven’t run in months, but I recall the last time I tried. Underscore tried. My heart just wasn’t into it. Wasn’t up for it. Couldn’t do it.
So I started going around in circles. Started spinning towards a former life. Bee-lining towards past and future at the same time. For reasons not understood, I couldn’t run, but I could ride.
I have felt, through the process, reborn.
She, on the other hand, wasn’t ready to be born.
Had made up her mind that she wanted to stay a little longer. Wanted to stay in that place of comfort. Surrounded in the most complete way by mother’s loving embrace.
Mum, though, knew better, knew that the moon had spun nine times and it was now time for a straight line into a new world.
But something was twisted. Fate was crooked. Time was bent upon itself and the clock ticked too many times.
And when she arrived, all was silent.
My phone rang in the dark of night, no voice on the other end of the line, only tears dripping words careening in bursts to an abrupt stop in my ears.
“The baby’s not coming.
She’s in distress.
There’s no heart beat.
They’re rushing ____ in for an emergency c-section.
I don’t know what’s happening.
They’ve revived her, but she’s on life support.
They don’t know if she can survive off the resuscitator.
Even if she can, they don’t think there’s going to be any brain activity.
We’re not allowed to hold her.”
A day later we’d bridged the gap of geography and I was holding my friend close, the strength of my grip belying how useless I felt. He’d cried his eyes dry in those 24 hours. He’d aged a decade. He’d watched his dreams extinguished in a short stretch of cruel hours. And I hadn’t a clue what to say or do to make it better.
So we ran.
We’ve always run. We ran into each other. Our shoes have tied us over the years into a shared experience, a shared set of values, a shared love for one another. We’ve run in earnest, we’ve run angry, we’ve run – so often – like children that age left behind. Heads thrown back, mad zig-zags tracing our route through streets and trails, laughter left like bread crumbs to mark our way.
Running, in short, is the force that brought us together and the glue that’s held us there. Though life often these days seems to be trying to pull us apart.
I haven’t run in months, but I recall the last time I tried. I had no plans to try again soon as I make a habit of not running headlong into heartbreak. But heartbreak met my dear friend at the door. And the only way to leave this pain behind was at a run.
She put all the doctors on their heels and has left them shaking their heads in wonder. She got off that respirator in no time flat. Spent three horrible days on ice in the intensive care unit, the discomfort of reduced temperature designed to minimize other stresses. She’s giving every indication of awareness and cognition. She’s home now with her parents. She’s a miracle.
Friendships born of sport are also a miracle. Something about that shared – it seems so trivial compared to the past few days – suffering we do out on the roads and trails, the common experience that leaves our bodies humming at a resonance frequency drawing us closer together and holding us there. Something that transcends words. So useful when words won’t come and, if they do, seem so empty.
That run we took amidst suffering, amongst friends, was supposed to be a gift from me to him, a distraction of footfalls to drown out the pessimistic words of those that thought they knew better. But it was also a gift to me, a reminder of what had been pulled from my grasp and then, by my choice, been left behind. Certainly a far more minor miracle, but through all this riding I’ve been doing in recent weeks, our short outing the other day told me that miraculously my running has come back to me. I won’t let it go again. I’ll fight to keep it. I’ll fight for the friends that it has given to me.
Just as dear Ela will fight for – and win – the life she deserves.