Today I ran for Sherry Arnold. A runner. Who woke up early one morning and never returned. Can you imagine? She went out for a run and never came back.
I often run alone. Sherry could be me. However, I try to make sure it won't be me. Each run I take is different. The path is different. The time is different. You really could not predict my where and when. It's pretty much by chance. But, partly because I don't want anyone to know where they can find me. Should someone be up to no good. I always let someone know I'm going out for a run. Whether it's a family member or a friend. Yes, I do have some random runners who text with me on some of my long runs. Yes, I need the motivation The giggles. To keep going. But, more importantly, I need someone to know that I've made it home safely. I've never told them this. But, it is part of why I need them for runs. To make sure I'm okay.
When I first read about today's tribute run a few weeks ago on her cousin's blog - Shut Up and Run I was still not running, due to injury. My goal was that, no matter what, I would run for Sherry today. Somehow. Someway.
Today people all around the world ran in memory of Sherry. I was one of them. I got up on a very cold, windy, Illinois winter day. The sky was blue, the air was brisk. It was beautiful. I normally run on roads near my home. However, today I decided to run along the nearby river path. We had snow last night. So, the path was a bit icy and slippery. But, I made sure I took my time with my footing. With my thoughts. For Sherry.
I passed several runners along the path. Two separate times I passed groups of young men. Probably from the local college, a running powerhouse. At no time did I feel uneasy about passing them. Maybe I should? But, I didn't. Each time the guys gave me smiles, "good mornings", and "have a great run".
I stopped here, along the river, to spend some moments to think of Sherry. About how absolutely horrible this is. That she woke up. Went for a run. Who would think something so horrible would happen? I think about what her the last words her family spoke to her. The last words her friends said to her.
When I was in high school, a 10 year old girl whom I had babysat on one occasion went missing. She was sick. Stayed home from school. Her mother had a neighbor check in on her staying home alone. She came home from work at lunch to check in on her. When her older sister returned from school later that day she found the front door knocked down. Her sister gone. Days, later they found her. Raped and murdered. A 10 year old girl. It was my first knock of how life can be so horribly, awfully, and incredibly senseless sometimes.
Her family surely never expected when they left for school and work that day that they would never see her again. Surely, they were all running out the door heading out to where they needed to be. Perhaps there were hugs. And kisses. And, some I love you's.
But, like Sherry's family and friends, they didn't know these were the last words they would say to her.
Do you leave people with words that you would be happy were the last words they would ever hear? Were they happy words? Did you make them smile? Did you make them laugh? Did you leave them feeling good? As they walked away from your face, or hung up the phone, or read the last text, would that last impression be a good one?
Or would it be one of hatred? Uncaring? Indifference?
When you know someone is sick and dying you say what matters. You say what needs to be said. You make sure they know it. That when they die they know that they are loved. That they mattered. That they will be missed.
Last night I spent a great evening with my 10 year old niece at her swim meet. My niece, the same age as the girl murdered when I was young. Whoa. That thought makes my heart sink. Deep.
She smoked her race and continues to dominate in the pool (that's my girl). Due to other family obligations I was there alone. For four hours. She came up into the stands to sit with me a few times. To chat. To tell me she was so glad I was there. I told her how proud I was of her. Of her swimming. Of what a wonderful young lady she had become. She brought her friends up to chat with me too. They were funny. Made me smile.
After the meet we went to dinner. I told her that I was having so much fun on our "date". She giggled and said that her friends always tell her that she has the kewlest aunt ever. That she thinks she's pretty lucky to have me as her aunt. Oh em gee. My heart swelled.
I took her home. Chatted with my sister for a bit about the meet. Said goodbye to everyone. Went to my car. My niece came running out screaming. I thought she had left something. I stopped. Asked her what was wrong. She said, "Nothing. I didn't tell you I loved you."
Awwww. I love her so. She hugged me, hard and tight. Told me she loved me. I had my typical response, "I love you MORE" She giggled. Said she loved ME more. I said I loved HER more..... and we went on. Like we always do. Until we laugh so hard we have to stop.
I went home. With a smile on my face and a heart full of love.
You never know what the last words to others may be.
Make them count.
Because you sometimes, sadly, can't go back and make it right.