September 15, 2010

Trisha’s Torch

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:24 am by jlp412

This past Sunday was the second annual Team Trisha Chicago Half Marathon and 5k. This year felt different, as it should have – we’ve weathered one more year without Trisha, settled into the routine of commemorating her in this way rather than propelling ourselves so violently into a new sphere of mourning and tributing. The task of running 13 miles was not quite as daunting, the group of us running was not quite the same compilation of people, the photo-taking session at the end of the run was not quite as explosive and incredulous at what we’d achieved – we’d done this before.

This year just felt different.

We had new members of the Team, friends of friends who never met Trisha but ran for her anyway. We raised more money through a new fundraising site. We ran faster and smarter this year. We picked up former sideline poster-holders and added them to the crew of runners, and we found more poster-holders to replace the ones we lost. We ran alongside co-workers, mothers and sorority sisters, and we ran through the finish line to the loud cheers of Trisha’s parents. We wore our purple shirts and spoke of her to anyone who would listen.

As I hit mile 12, I played “Don’t Stop Believin'” on my iPod to push me through to the very end of the course, just like I did last year. I wore a band around my wrist of purple cloth cut from my 2009 Team Trisha shirt to remind myself that I had done this before and I could do it again.

But this year was still different.

On the plane ride back to DC after the race, this feeling kept nagging at me, a kind of frantic need to affirm something. That feeling shook me out of my temporary slumber and led my hand to write this to Trisha in my journal:

“Trisha – I promise that no matter how old I am, no matter what else I have happening in my day-to-day world, no matter how much easier it would be to tuck your life and your loss on a shelf and only pull it down when I feel like it, no matter how many days or years or layers of buffer pass between the day we lost you and the day I take my last breath, I promise to never forget you.

“I promise to always tell stories about you, to share your legacy with strangers, to widen your footprint on this earth. I promise to stay connected to your family. I promise to strive to do something remarkable each year for you. Because you were remarkable. Because you didn’t ask for this fate. Because nothing is quite so large as death, not even a light as bright as yours. Because without candleholders and torchbearers, you become just the dark that took you and not the light you left us with.”

We’ve passed the Year of Firsts now – the first anniversary of her death, the first half marathon, the first reunion when we gathered together without her. This year felt different because it was different – we were more sure of our footing, but also more removed from last year’s sense of awe in conquering such a daunting physical challenge. We were a larger team, but with a different dynamic. We still came together to plan dinners and poster-making and t-shirts and fundraising, and her parents once again continued to find ways to give and give of themselves, but we eased into these roles with a comfort based on routine.

It wasn’t until my plane ride home that I realized just how significant these differences were. Yes, the pieces and people that formed this half marathon had changed, but the core was the same: We ran, once again, for Trisha. And as we did, we continued to carry her torch.

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