What have been the event horizons of your life – the moments from which there is no turning back?
I ran a half-marathon last weekend…
My brother is a recovering addict. One relic from the era of the worst of his addiction is that I am notorious for screening my calls. For a few years, each time the phone rang, the caller on the other end of the line was delivering awful news. And there even came a time when I was texting my contact information to his phone in the event that someone found it — or him.
I mentioned back in December that, a few months ago, he had called me at a weird hour, accepting my challenge to run a half marathon together. I had answered the phone with trepidation — concerned that an off-hour call from him still meant disaster. But I had taken the call anyway, and instead, of delivering bad news, he had called to say: Yes.
So I registered us for a race on a date between my birthday and his, and sent him a training plan — one I made specifically for him; pieced together from my own experience and plans that had been made for me.
And I hoped. And prayed. And wondered whether this would Work.
Then I went off to Thailand at Christmas, and I came back in January, and proceeded to get Very Sick. Not in the sense of a cold or flu, but in the sense of swollen lungs; pleurisy; rhematoid issues within my chest cavity. I stopped doubting whether my brother could run the race, and I began doubting whether I — a twelve-time marathoner — could do it.
I wondered whether I was going to let my brother down.
I could barely run between January and March. I barely trained. And work was crazy, too. Nonetheless, I dragged myself to the airport for my flight out to California, and I made my way to my parents’ house for the Main Event. And we drove, as a family, to Paso Robles, where the race was to take place.
On the morning of the race, it was colder than I had anticipated, and my brother and I were bundled up at the start, waiting to begin. I was wearing a hat, since I’ve become somewhat psychotic about exposing my face to the sun. And he had tied a bandana around his head — the fabric emblazoned with Shane, forever in our hearts.
Shane was his best friend, who had died four years ago after a many years-long struggle with addiction.
And there we were.
When they announced that we should head to the line, we shed our matching fleeces, and went to the start. Then, as if in a dream, we were off.
If you had asked me, five years ago, if I thought I would be running through the foothills of the Central Coast of California with my brother, never would I have answered in the affirmative. It would’ve been more likely that, five years hence, my brother would be dead. And I say that not to be dramatic, or to exaggerate — I say that because, at the time, it was true.
But on Sunday morning, the feet pounding the pavement next to mine were his.
We paced together for ten miles, and then I pulled back — my hip began to cramp and I told him to go on ahead. And I watched as my little brother went forth and took on the last 3.1 miles, solo, for his first race finish.
And here’s the thing: it wasn’t a finish, but a beginning; a moment after which we would never be the same. And we had, through the years, thrown off the things that had hindered us; picked through the brambles that had ensnared. We had managed to run the race set out before us.
I’m not saying that you have to believe in miracles, or a higher power, or any of the things that I do. But I am saying that all around us, there is evidence of patience and perseverence giving us second chances. I suppose we just have to be open to taking those chances; accepting those challenges.
And so there we found ourselves on Sunday: my brother completing his first race; my parents greeting us at the finish line; all of us — a family ready and open to being transformed.