Saturday, July 4, 2015

Running with Grief

For the first time since I started this blog, I have skipped a post.  There is a very good reason for this.

My last post was a recap of the Ragnar Trail Event in West Virginia.  I had written about the challenges of that race.  What I didn't tell you was that the night I arrived (during the storm), I received several voice messages and texts from my family regarding my father, and I was worried about his health the whole time.

My father had two heart attacks and a quadruple bypass six years ago.  He was in the Cleveland Clinic for months, and if it had not been for the wonderful staff there, he would have died.  Last year my father's health started failing again, and I rushed to Florida just in time to get him psyched up to get an LVAD, which is a machine that regulates blood flow for the heart.  Again, he almost died because his organs had already started shutting down, but the surgical staff at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston performed a miracle and brought him back.

My father with my son

The LVAD is a temporary fix, and only patients who are on the list for a heart transplant get one.  My family was thrilled that my father would qualify for a transplant, but we knew the risks such a surgery would entail.

My father on his wedding day

When the storm started in West Virginia, I saw that my father had called me, but I couldn't access his voice mail because of poor reception.  When I finally found a "pocket of reception," I learned that my father had gone to the hospital because a heart had become available.  My last message from my father was him telling me that he was excited and that I should not fly to Florida for the surgery.

Fly to Florida?  I was surrounded by mountains and forests in Appalachia.

I kept my phone on all weekend, and anytime I could get reception (sometimes in the middle of a trail), I would look at my messages or listen to voice mails.  I was frantic.

Imagine running the Red Loop at 3:00 AM when you are frantic.

Anyway, I finally got the call from my brother the following Thursday, telling me to come to my father.  I got on the first plane I could book, and my brother rushed me to my father at one in the morning so he would know that I was there.

The next day we unhooked my father from all the machines that were keeping him alive.  Before we did, I told him that I loved him, and that he was a great father.  I hope he heard me.

I spent the next few days helping my father's wife make all the arrangements for his funeral.  I organized, I phoned, I wrote his obituary and the eulogy for the minister. . .and I did run.  I wanted so badly to run and cry, but the weather was so hot and humid that I felt more annoyed and irritated than anything, and I couldn't express my grief and sadness.

Running is so cathartic, and yet I have not felt any relief.

I returned to Ohio at 3:00 AM yesterday, and I am still organizing, cleaning, taking care of others.  At some point I will have to take care of myself. I will have to FEEL.

Tomorrow I will run, and I hope some sort of healing can begin.