Do you remember the exact moment when life hit you in the face and you thought “What the fuck am I going to do?” I do. The moment was April 17, 2011. It was the day my dad died. Now, I’m a pretty tough chick but I am a true “Cancer” in that my hard exterior protects my somewhat fragile inside. When you go through something so hard and so tough that it takes your breath away….where do you go?
Life was hard after my dad passed away from esophageal cancer that late April Sunday night for many reasons. He was a sound foundation to some would say my “high energy” personality. He was an amazing listener, a wonderful father to my sister and me. He loved my mom dearly. He was my husband’s favorite golf partner. He could play blocks and cars like no other with my boys. I had no one to call when I couldn’t figure out the hardest of crossword answers anymore. (Not that I did crosswords that often because I have NO attention span for that crap!) Losing my dad opened a gaping hole, and I had no idea what could possibly fill it.
The first thing that helped was Edwin (as all my boys did). Being pregnant throughout the entire process of losing your most favorite person isn’t something I would wish on anyone. The hormones….dear God….the HORMONES! Someone give my husband a medal! Eddie filled a huge hole and I knew my dad was with me the whole time during his birth. The similarities between my dad’s last days and the pregnancy were ASTOUNDING! Those are some gory details and no one wants to see photos of that.
The second thing that came into my life after my dad’s passing was my decision to take care of me. Here I was, three kids later, a previous history of death experience (that’s a story for another day), a little post-baby out of shape (OK, a lot!), and still a little behind on the process of grieving. It takes time to grieve and when you have 3 kids that constantly need you, it doesn’t really happen. Or least not for me.
I made the decision in January 2012 that it was time for me. I put on my workout shoes and went to the YWCA Midtown on a Friday night. First attempt: Zumba. It was awesome. It was like a Friday night dance party. Everyone who knows me knows I love a good booty shakin’ session. It helped for a little while, but I still didn’t get the “me” time that processing something so tragic required.
I made the decision to run the Fargo Half-Marathon again in February 2012. It would be 4 years since my dad and I ran it together and I thought, “What better way to be close to him?! I’ll either remember it this time and not die, or I get to see my dad sooner! WIN-WIN!” So I signed up. My mom freaked out, and so did my sister. My husband made sure I had one hell of a life insurance policy and encouraged me to do what I needed to do.
My first day on the indoor track at the YWCA and I was off on my training. After playing soccer my whole life, three miles seemed like a good start. I was fat. I mean, still post-baby and a little slow, but I did it. I cried the WHOLE time. Every lap tears streamed down my face. Every lap I kept thinking, this is hard, but dying of cancer is so much harder. My dad never complained. EVER. I knew my dad would have been proud. I walked off that track 3 miles later looking like my 10-year-old self watching My Girl. Don’t judge…everyone cried during that movie. Swollen face, eyes poofy, wet literally from sweat and tears.
That’s when I met trainer (now friend) Tim Pearson (yep, the one from this blog). He was sitting at the trainer’s desk and saw me coming off that track looking like absolute shit. He asked if I was OK. “What happened?” he said. I told him, with boogers coming out of my nose, “I’m fine…it was a great run!” And it was. I loved every minute of it. I got a chance to GRIEVE…finally. I got a chance to be at peace with my own thoughts. I briefly explained to him why I looked like a swollen blubbering mess of a crazy person. He took it all in stride and said, “Glad it was a good run. We’ll see you tomorrow!”
And that was it. That was the day that my life started to come back. That was the day when my world changed for the better after such a horrible loss. That day I started to meet the most amazing people (many of whom are collaborators on this blog) who pick me up on my worst days and see both my struggles and triumphs. That is the day that brought me back to myself. Brought me back to my family, my husband and kids.
I think about my dad EVERY workout I do. EVERY ONE! Still to this day, 4 years later, he is with me on every mile I run, every weight I pick up, every literal wall I climb and every Tough Mudder I complete. On every trail run I think, “my dad would have loved this!” He is with me in every person that encourages me to be stronger and be my best self. My family is proud of me. I KNOW my dad is too. He wouldn’t want to see me sad and struggling. He would want to see me be strong and brave in every sense of the word. And I am.
Whatever fitness activity or reason you need to find your true self, it’s time. It’s time to be there for you. If it is to grieve like me, or to get that much-needed mommy-break, or to just feel (and look) good both inside and out. It is time. Maybe it’s golf (threw that one in there for you Dad), a crossfit throwdown, doing a 5K or maybe it’s just taking your kids to the park and being ABLE to follow them across the monkey bars…find it. You will be happy you did. -Sally
I love you Dad!