Running through Grief


Two years ago my friend Sam convinced me to run the Warrior Dash; Joey, my husband decided he would do it too. I was very nervous. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to keep up or get through the obstacles. But whenever I did anything with Joey I always tried to keep up with him; I never wanted to let him down. So the first half we did together just him and I. Sam ran most of it with another friend. He ran in front and I followed suit behind him. We made it through the first half with no problem. 

 Once we got to the mud wall things got harder, but he managed to push me right up and pull himself over. He was always a beast, there was nothing he couldn’t do. When we got to the barn my fear of heights set in, he assured me I was fine and I made it over. Next was the rope wall, Sam had caught up to us by this point. Joey and I both got over and next was Sam. She would make it to the top, stop and slide back down. She was second guessing herself. She kept saying, “Just leave me its fine.” Joey would tell her, “No, we are doing this together.” So on her last try he climbed up behind her and pushed her over. 

 The second to last was the balance beam. It was about twenty feet in the air and supposed to be over water, but there was maybe three feet of water under us. Joey went over it without a hitch. There was nothing he was afraid of. Sam went next, she was scared but she did it. I just stood there, frozen. I would step on and step right back off. Joey was telling me I could do it and encouraging me to walk across. I just couldn’t do it. Finally he looked at me and said, “Get down and meet us on the other side, you can’t do it.” He knew what he was doing. I could do it and to call me a coward made me mad, mad enough to walk across the beam. So I did. And he was waiting on the other side smiling. We hugged and moved on to the slide. We finished the race hand in hand, together. It was a great day and a great accomplishment.

 The following year the Warrior Dash was the day after his funeral.


This year Sam and I knew what we had to do. We had to run the Warrior Dash for him and make him proud. So I wore the same shirt he wore when he ran and Sam wore one of his favorite Superman shirts.

On the way from the car to the race, I kept looking for a four leaf clover. I’m not good at finding them but I always find them when I go to the site of his accident. I wanted so bad to find one to validate he would be with me through the race. I never found one. 

 When the race first started “Just run, just run” is all I could think. I looked back and almost tripped; I thought I saw him. I looked back again it wasn’t him, obviously. The obstacles were in a different order this time. The barn was in the beginning, I stayed focused and got over with no problem. Then there was more running through the woods. Again I thought I saw him, again I realized how ridiculous this was. Next we came to the mud wall, there were men there helping everyone over. Thank God. 

 Then came the rope wall. I got over it with no problem. I waited for Sam to catch up there, I stood on top of hill looking for her. When I found her I noticed a man in front of her with Joey’s build. This was the third time I had thought I saw him, so I allowed myself for a minute to believe it was him. But in reality he would have been right beside me, never behind me. Sam reached the wall and I watched her, encouraging her that she could do it. And you know what happen? She did it, she got over it on her first try. I could see the satisfaction on her face and I’m pretty sure she could see the tears on mine. 

 We knew the slide was coming. But when we got to it there were no balance beams this time, just a straight climb up. So we climbed, held hands and slid down. We across the finish line the same way, hand in hand. 

 We had done it. We finished the race and did really well. I felt very proud of us both and knew he would be proud too. We walked back to the car covered in mud. When we got to the car I started to take my shoes and socks off and when I looked down I saw it. A beautiful four leaf clover, my victory gift. My validation.

Life is very much like these races. It can be hard, and dirty. You can be very alone or have friends with you. You will be scared and wish you had your best friend, your rock with you. And sometimes you will and other times, no matter how much you wish it, you will have to do it alone. The key is to still do it, no matter how scared you are, just do it. Because if you let your fears and false dreams stand in your way you will never live. You have to keep living, you have to finish the race. You can’t just stand at the starting line and wonder what if, you must run. That finish line is sweet and always worth it. And in the end you will get your validation, you just have to be patient and keep your open heart.

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  • commented 2016-06-27 09:38:40 -0700
    Michelle, this is a great post. I particularly loved the last paragraph – really really good words there. You are an inspiration.