Monday, November 23, 2009

Breathing Well

"Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life." ~Giovanni Papini

"For most people, taking a breath is just something you do without even thinking about it. But for me, it has become something that is not only on the front of my mind all the time, but something I must constantly work at to get around from day to day." ~Joel Cummings, 7/20/09

I am sitting in a dark office, my chest constricting, and eyes full of tears. I'm not really sure why the news of Joel's passing hit so hard. Less than an hour ago my best friend texted to ask if I'd heard Joel had died. That short sentence transported me back to 7th grade math class. Though Joel and I had gone to the same church for as long as I could remember, we had never really spoken and I cannot for the life of me remember what we were discussing in math class that resulted in Joel saying, "I'll probably die before I'm 20," but those words and the look on his elfin face were burned into my memory.

Throughout the rest of junior high and all through high school it was easy to forget Joel had a terminal illness - Cystic Fibrosis. We traveled together on youth group trips and he was active in tennis. I never saw the appeal of the sport in which felted yellow balls were launched at mach speed at my head, but had several friends who did. Our older siblings dated for awhile, which resulted in several shared meals and holiday celebrations. We graduated from high school in 2003 and went on our separate paths - seeing each other from time to time during the holidays at church, but never really speaking.

It wasn't until several months ago I started hearing rumors that Joel was in desperate of a lung transplant. The town rallied together and organized fundraiser after fundraiser to help Joel and his wife raise the $250,000 needed in hand to be evaluated for a lung transplant. The last I had heard a couple lungs had come through.

Last night, Joel passed on - leaving a young widow, three dogs, his family, and a community grieving. I rejoice in knowing Joel is breathing the fresh air of Heaven with 100% lung capacity now. He's probably playing tennis with the angels as I type this.

Joel, I bet Jesus will school you on your backhand. Peace until we meet again, brother.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pinch Me, I Must be Dreaming!

12,000 runners. World's largest relay race.
1,000 teams accepted and more than 850 teams turned away.
197 miles - from majestic Mt. Hood to the sandy beach of Seaside.

Guess who was not turned away for the 29th Annual Hood to Coast Relay? That's right - ME! My check was cashed in October, but I waited nearly a month for the official acceptance letter. When I found it in my inbox Monday morning I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Because, here's the thing: I am not much of a runner. In fact, I haven't ran consistently in more than three years. One thing I've always known, however, is that one day I wanted to participate in the Hood to Coast. Last year the bug hit me hard and I called my dad and said, "Daddy, I bet you want to run the Hood to Coast for your 50th birthday." Much to my surprise (and delight) he confessed he too had always dreamed of running in this epic relay.

(Of course, this was a little more exciting when NIKE was the lead sponsor. I enjoyed the irony of seeing banners proclaiming "Nike's Hood to Coast Relay" everywhere and was looking forward to having a shirt that boasted the same, but, alas, OfficeMax stepped up as the headliner sponsor this year. So our shirts will scream "OfficeMax's Hood to Coast Relay," which doesn't quite have the same appeal.)

I have been wanting - but not bad enough to actually do anything about it - to start running again and with an August 27th deadline and 9.5 minute mile requirement my motivation has arrived. Team Speedy Turtles is ready to take on the challenge!