I ran a 5k on Saturday with my close friend Michelle, and as I approached the place where people were gathering around the start line before the race, I immediately noticed a different feeling was present than for any other race I’d done before. I felt a blanket of sadness and struggle that seemed to rest somewhat heavily on the small crowd that gathered in orange t-shirts around the start line as a cancer survivor played his guitar, and a speaker relayed the latest treatment advances in the fight against Multiple Myeloma. I asked Michelle if this would be one of those races where they hand you a beer at the end, because this whole thing was beginning to feel very sad. She laughed and told me no they would not, and we agreed it would probably not align with the event’s goals of health and remission. I told her not to worry and that I would pull another coping strategy out of my toolbox.
Gray clouds that promised rain hung in the sky, and I felt the absence of the runners’ loved ones amid the thick Georgia humidity. I grieved alongside Michelle, and revisited my own feelings of grief and loss. I felt the absence of my Grandma Phyllis who died of cancer right before I graduated from high school, my Grandpa Ray who died the morning after Dusty and I got married, and my Grandpa Glen who died a few months after holding baby Carlson in his arms. I remembered reading scripture through tears at my Grandma Grace’s funeral, a month after Caleb was born. I remembered praying for my friends Sabina and Lisa shortly before they both died of breast cancer. I remembered my fellow class clown Chris and his death from cancer, and the aneurisms and sudden deaths of my high school friend Jessica and college roommate Jen. I remembered my friend Bethe from graduate school and my high school classmate Mandy and the car accidents that ended their lives. I thought of Dusty’s relatives and others we’ve lost over the years. I missed my dogs Ozzie, Max, and Furter.
The rain held off during the race but there was an eventual downpour. Our tears of grief often happen in the same way. We hold off for awhile, and then there’s a downpour. Sometimes our tears are unexpected and seem to rise up within us out of nowhere. In those tears of sadness, and in the cloud of grief surrounding that race on Saturday, is also the deep sort of love that God calls us to in our relationships with loved ones. What also remains is the loving presence of one another and the collective grief and love that unites us. Let’s keep making space in our hearts for that love to grow, and for sadness and grief to keep running their course.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Revealed: What the Bible Can Teach You About Yourself by Dr. Angela D. Schaffner, recently published by Upper Room Books and available here.