The horrific news came to me in December 2012 while I was in Tucson to run a half marathon the next day, forgoing my annual trek to join friends in Florida. A good friend and his wife, on their way to that annual Florida get-together, were in a terrible accident, the violence of it engulfing their vehicle in flames, the force of impact amputating my friend's left leg above the knee and severely crushing his wife's left leg.
This is bad enough news on its own. Their injuries were very severe in anybody's book. But you see, my good friend is also an avid marathoner. This made the news all the more horrible to me as a fellow runner. Suddenly I was filled with regret. Regret that I never agreed to run a race with him, despite his repeated invitations for me to join him.
I salved that regret by running my next five half marathons in his name, raising money through pledges. My comfort was in the bandana that I created and wore for each of those races, lovingly folding the still sweat-dampened kerchief into an envelope after each race and mailing it to him with a photo of my finisher's medal. This is for you, my dear friend. I ran this race and you were with me every step of the way.
Last weekend, a year after that accident, we all gathered again for this annual event, including my injured friend and his wife. It was a celebration of their survival and a way to put closure to that chapter of their lives. And it was a closure for all of us who love them dearly as friends. Seeing them alive and recovering, as vibrant as ever is wonderfully healing for the mind and soul.
Throughout the weekend, I was continuously reminded of how resilient the human spirit truly is. My friend repeatedly talked about his life moving forward. He realizes his life as he knew it prior to the accident is now over and now he's starting a new life. Simply put and well-stated. Regrouping, adapting, overcoming.
As this good friend always has in the past, he regaled us over lunch and dinner with wonderful stories, stories about his friends...all of us. How he met us, fun and funny incidents that occurred in his travels that involved one or more of us.
On our last evening together, he told us of a wonderful incident, one that happened during his recovery. He was on an elevator at the medical center, wearing his new prosthesis but still relying heavily on a cane to walk. When the door opened at his floor, a man was standing there with a cane, waiting to get on. Upon seeing my friend with only one leg, he commented as he boarded the elevator, "Suddenly my sciatica isn't so bad after all."