Sunday, July 6, 2014

Broken Hallelujahs

Last night I ran farther than I’ve ever run before. Eight miles. An hour and ten minutes of straight running, my feet hitting the cement and my chest heaving with each step. Civil Wars on my iPhone belting out their glorious southern harmonies and Gatorade in my fuel belt sloshing back and forth (the one my loving husband makes me wear). The cool evening breeze on my cheeks, the still water in the creek below, masses of trees sprawling to the sky in a breathtaking Hallelujah

This summer, I’m training for a triathlon and a half marathon, both physical goals I never, ever would have expected to achieve. Goals I could hardly even have expected to set for myself a year ago. It’s amazing how much can change in a year...

I can hardly believe that today I sit on the anniversary of a dear friend's passing, a tragic death, a life gone from this earth far too soon. It seems so fresh, too close to accept that it all happened a whole year ago. 365 days of life in the wake of loss. Endless minutes of remembering and regretting, honoring and hoping. 

I can hear the voice on the other end of the line vividly, frantically waking us from sleep, sharing the news of the accident. I can remember my first reaction - the shock, disbelief, absurdity - and then the long, long dreaded ride to embrace other mourners. To face the truth. I can see bloodshot eyes, drained of more tears that any human should ever cry, weary, gutted, hollow. I can hear the silence, throats suffocated with the weight of circumstances.
I can see her pale face clearly, feel the touch of cold skin on my trembling fingers as though it was yesterday. I can feel the ache in my heart, the wailing in my soul, the hopelessness that engulfed me in the days and weeks to follow. 
I can see family and friends lost in their own seas of grief, all of us trying to reach out a hand in the midst of our own drowning. I can feel the guilt, the regret, the weight of our mortality. 

Today, one year later, I can hear her voice, our last conversation filled with all the kindness and thoughtfulness she so richly possessed. I can see her glowing skin, her bright smile as she asked about a recent trip our family had taken. As she sat there in quiet confidence, so interested in my answer, so concerned about our lives. I can feel the softness of the couch, the warmth of that Fourth of July day, the tenderness of her presence. I can hear my then two year old son crying from another room, beckoning me away from her, forever

I cannot find the words to express how her life affected me, how her death forever changed me. I know I am different now - because she lived, because she died. 
Taken on our way to run the Loryn Memorial Thanksgiving 5K
As I ran last night - joyful about my training accomplishments, energized from a productive day, sobered by the approaching anniversary - my heart filled with a deep sense of gratitude. 
A gratitude birthed out of grief, watered by tears, fertilized by seeking. 
I ran and breathed in a profound knowing that each step I took was a gift. That each breath I breathed was holy. I ran in awe of all the days I have gotten to live, all the souls I have gotten to embrace, all the words I have gotten to write. 

Just as my feet rhythmically hit the ground, my soul found a perfect cadence of Thank You’s. Thank you for health to run, the gift of freedom, the joy of deep, fresh breaths. Thank you for glorious sunsets and fields to play in and mud to clean up. Thank you for the privilege of caring for two beautiful children, the wonder of living life alongside such an amazing man. Thank you for the home I get to make memories in, the words I get to write, the life I get to live. Thank you for green grass on my feet and warm sun rays on my skin and kind words in my ears. Thank you for questions, for mystery, for the opportunity to love. Thank you for every day, every minute, every second that I am. 

I spoke my Thank You's to the sky - to Loryn, to the Divine, to the trees, to all who would listen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I sung it, shouted it, breathed the fullness of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Nothing will ever justify such a loss. Nothing will ever explain such a senseless tragedy. No amount of time will satisfy the questions or remove the aches. We are right to weep, to wail, to scream with furled brows at the sky. We are right to mourn, to wear our tear stains publicly, to retreat for a season. We are right to keep remembering, seeking, wanting. 

And we are right to keep living. We are right to find a mysterious weaving together of sadness and joy, of grief and gratitude. We are right to laugh, to sing, to shout our Thank You's with hopeful hearts to the skies. To believe each day is a gift and to seize every moment with open hearts. We are right to keep loving, building, hoping.

~These words are dedicated to Loryn Cassady~

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