“I’ll be back in about an hour,” I said. “I’m going for a run.” 

“Okay Daddy.” 

“Call me if you have a problem.” 

‘Uh huh,” Natalie, said, fiddling with the remote. 

“Mommy will be home before I get back. Then we’ll go have dinner.” 

Leaving my daughter to her snack and television, I locked the door, slipped my phone into its armband, queued up my jogging playlist and then started running at an easy pace down my street. After navigating a busy intersection, I entered a residential area by a lake and, as my knee began issuing its usual protestations, I took a deep breath and pushed through it, knowing that after a mile it’d get with the program. Half a mile in, I passed a woman jogging with a toddler in a stroller and waved merrily. The child smiled and waved back but the mom studiously ignored me. Oh well. Warmed up, I picked up the pace and knew from my body’s feedback that my legs were good for at least three miles. When I first started running, a mile was pure torture. Now it was a piece of cake. “You’re in the best shape of your life,” my cardiologist told me the previous day. “Better late than never.” 

“So, what are my odds of dropping dead from a heart attack?” I asked. 

“Minuscule. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” You’d think I’d be happy with such a glowing report, but I wasn’t – because miniscule doesn’t mean impossible. Ever since my cancer ordeal, I’ve become more conscious of my mortality than is probably healthy. Watching my father die didn’t help matters either. I guess once you catch a glimpse behind life’s fragile curtain nothing is ever the same. Pacing alongside the lake, I thought about how many years I had left. Ten? Twenty? Thirty? “At least stick around until your daughter’s out of college,” I thought to myself.

Hitting the three mile mark, I felt good and decided to go another mile but, as I passed other runners and bikers, a line from a poem popped into my head, “Because I could not stop for death – he kindly stopped for me.”  Grunting, I knew part of the reason I started running was to cope with my fear of the inevitable but, no matter how many miles I ran, I knew I’d never outrun death. It would always be there waiting for me. Shaking my head to dispel my morose thoughts, I knew I’d better keep my eyes open lest some idiot driver took me out there and then. 

After climbing up a steep hill, I ran high above the lake and watched as the setting sun’s rays played upon the still waters. As the evening breeze carried the sweat away from my body, I thought about those five stages of grief I’m supposed to be going through. As far as I can tell, I skipped over denial and bargaining completely and went straight to anger. Too say I’ve been testy lately would be a vast understatement, but I also know I’ve been logging miles to try and exorcise the raging restlessness that seems to have taken possession of my soul. Harnessing my fury, I ran faster, trying to sweat out the badness and slipped into an almost trancelike state. I don’t know how long I went like that but, when my legs and lungs finally cried “no mas” I finally stopped. Heaving deep breaths, I looked at the exercise monitor on my wrist. Five miles. A new record. 

Feeling my heart starting to downshift, I began walking home, soaked in sweat. Wincing as my gimpy knee ached, I silently cursed myself for trying to do too much too soon. Then again, grief is a long journey also and I’ve only just begun to walk it. No sense rushing what cannot be rushed, but I also knew death would kindly stop for many others before my turn came.  As an old saint once said, “One day you will lose everyone you’ve ever loved, or they will lose you.” 

As I neared my house, a fortyish woman jogging towards me also came to a stop and, when I waved in exhausted solidarity, her face broke into a beautiful smile. “It doesn’t get any easier,” she said, breathing heavily “Does it?” 

“No,” I said. “It never does.” 

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!