Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.


July 18, 2008

I like new stuff plenty, and harbor secret joy when some things break, because I can replace them with their superior antecedent. Shoes, eyeglasses, kitchen tools, and stereo speakers would all fall into this category. Sure, I’m bummed when they break, but I’m a little excited too.

But I’m also sentimental, and so there are certain things that break and leave me disappointed. When my old cordless drill died, I nearly held a funeral. If I lost my hammer, I would cry real tears. I’ll loan you (or even give you) any of my books, but don’t you dare set a beverage next to my Synopsis, yo.

I just got done stitching the band of my running watch together with string. I could try to replace the plastic band, but it’s this funky integral Nike thing that would probably break if I tried to stretch the new one on there. And I could replace the whole watch with a newer and cooler version, but then I wouldn’t have my old watch. One that’s been through heat and cold, racing and training, and at least two marathons. But even more important, it was my ally when my son was in the hospital and I started losing track of the days. By telling me the date and day of the week, my trusty watch helped me keep my sanity (or at least the appearance of it). And I can’t exactly remember, but I think it was on my wrist the night he died.

Here’s the thing: I’m running this race tomorrow, to honor my son and kids like him. I did it last year, and it was taxing then. Yes, it was hard to see kids with Will’s same heart condition running and playing on the slide. And yes, it was debilitating to see the little memorial photo of him when I blew by it while at the edge of my own cardiac inefficiency. But the added variable tomorrow is that there will probably be a bunch of people from Children’s Hospital there– people who I remember well, and respect deeply, but people who are stuck in my mind in a time and a place where I can’t return. People who have meant the world to me, but also people who have moved on, continuing to help other kids and families. I don’t begrudge them this, and in fact only want to bless them to do more of God’s work. I don’t want to drag them back to my loss, or my neediness. I don’t want to be some sad sap who is stuck in the past. I want to thank them, and encourage them, and wish them Godspeed in doing what they do and in finding the joy that they deserve. I want them to go home to an absolutely ordinary Saturday.

What I want to do is to run, hard. Not because I’m in great shape, but because I’m not. I want to run in spite of my inefficiencies as a tribute to my son. I want to push myself as a penance for him. I want to join him, somehow, as I struggle against the limitations of my body. I want my tears to mix with my sweat as I give everything I can to the effort. And then I want to thank them for doing the same thing.

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2 Responses to “Penance”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Peace be with you tomorrow.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are not the ministering spirits that do this work day in and day out proof that God exists?
    Tom D.M.

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