Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Wasatch Back That Wasn't

My race story will be a bit different than most. You see, this year, I did not even make it to the start of the race. I signed my team up in January, and had been training hard. I even shaved about 1 minute per mile off of my average pace. When I saw the course changes, I was beside myself. This year, the course would pass on the other side of Morgan valley, right by the house where I grew up, past my grandparents’ old house and right through the middle of countless childhood memories. I immediately made sure I had the assigned legs so that I would run that part of the course. I spent a lot of time thinking about how it would feel. Would the farmers be cutting the first crop of alfalfa? I still remember the smell to this day. How would the old Milton Park look? My eagle project as a youth had been to build benches for it. Would the old rodeo grounds still be there? I won my first belt buckle riding a "bull" there. I imagined how it would be to share so many memories with my close running friends. It would be a weekend never to forget.....

The next part of my tale takes us 34 years into the past. My wife's parents were expecting twins. The labor was long, and way too early. One twin, Ryan, died within 24 hours. The other, Bryan, was not expected to make it much longer. The doctors told the family to hold off burying Ryan, as they were sure Bryan would soon be joining him. Despite these odds, Bryan survived. He did not escape without problems, though. He suffered from Cerebral Palsy, and was never able to do anything for himself. He could not walk or talk. He depended on others to do everything for him. Sally, his mother, dedicated her life to caring for Bryan. They were inseparable.

On the Monday before the race this year, I received a call that Bryan had aspirated, stopped breathing and had been rushed to the hospital. Sally, a registered nurse, did everything she could to save him. The ambulance arrived quickly, and the hospital was reached within minutes. Sadly, even with all the efforts, we lost Bryan.

You might think that someone who could not talk might not have much of a personality, or even have much of an impact on others. Nothing could be further from the truth with Bryan. He had a way of sharing his love with everyone. I don't know that I have ever met a kinder, more loving person. The only time he ever became angry was if someone in the family was getting into trouble, or if someone was foolish enough to stand between him and a Utah Jazz game on the television. Other than that, he was the perfect example of unconditional love.

Sally will forever be one of the greatest examples of service I have had the privilege of seeing in action. She gave up 34 years of her life to attend to Bryan's every need. Bryan rarely slept through the night, and she was always there to be with him. She often had to stay behind if the family was going somewhere not accessible for Bryan. If we were on the road for vacation, and hit a restaurant where Bryan could not easily get in, then she ate in the car with him. She did so many selfless acts on her part, for over 34 years. What an amazing lesson she provided for us.

As my team embarks on this year’s race, I am at home to participate in the services for Bryan. As I think of them running, I am left with a feeling of gratitude. How thankful should each of us be for the ability to just walk? Bryan had a sharp mind, yet for 34 years he was left in a prison, unable to do anything for himself. As I think of the things my team will see, I wonder about how many things Bryan would have enjoyed to see, but did not have the capabilities to get to them? As I reflect on the powerful friendships my team members have for each other, I am left to ponder about how many friends Bryan had? How many lives did he influence, and not even know about it? Even as I share these thoughts with you, I am so thankful just for the ability to type, to communicate and to share.

What of Sally? How many hobbies did she give up to take care of her sweet son? She had no time to exercise. The idea of taking off two days to run a relay with 11 of her friends would have been out of the question. We should all be thankful for supportive families and understanding employers who put up with our odd running hours, our tendency to talk about running way too much, our planning of family vacations around races and every other sacrifice we take for granted.

So to each of my Wasatch Back comrades, I would say to be thankful as you run. Take a moment to reflect upon the majestic beauties you will pass through. How blessed you each are to run and to be on a team, to be surrounded by others who share your passion for running.

To my team, I say race on! I would be remiss if I didn't thank my co-captains, Ryan and Gary, for stepping up and making sure the last minute details were taken care of and the team was able to keep racing. I also send a big thanks to my good friend Scott, for not only taking my spot in the relay but for also stepping up and providing the wheels for van number one of our team.


No comments: