Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Running For G

A few minutes after I finished the half marathon on September 13, 2014

I'm a runner.

I'm a cyclist.

I'm a swimmer.

I'm going to be thirty-five years old in a few short weeks and although I do all three of the aforementioned, I'm not necessarily good at any of them.  But I get my butt outside or in the pool or on the treadmill and I work my body very hard, sometimes to the point of nausea and utter exhaustion.  Last spring I registered to do the Big Cottonwood half marathon with some friends of mine and I trained hard for it.  I really enjoy training because when there's a goal in mind, I push myself very hard and I'm my own best competition.  Aside from the half in September, I had plans to do another sprint triathlon that month as well, although I never got around to registering early for it.

I guess it's better that I didn't, because Garrett died and from July 12th forward, I didn't do more than walk to and from the bathroom or make the occasional mailbox visit.  Running five or ten miles at a time was completely out of the question.  My entire body and mind was simply in survival mode, if even that.  

Though I'd already registered for the half marathon and forked over my hundred bucks, it was the farthest thing from my mind.  And it stayed that way until three days before the race.  I'd lost what felt like every bit of muscle mass in my body and my lung capacity had greatly diminished.  It's amazing how quickly the body atrophies when it does nothing but sit for weeks on end, and add the fact that I had stopped eating and drinking, my nutritional reserves had rapidly dwindled.  

I still don't know why it happened like it did, but I remember sitting on the living room couch on a Wednesday while I was all alone in the house.  I had just dropped Devin off at preschool and of course the bigger kids had already left hours earlier.  I was thirsty, although I didn't want to drink anything.  Then for some reason, I got up and moved into the kitchen as if someone else was moving my body for me.  I felt like a marionette.  And I was standing at the kitchen sink when the thought came to me "I think I'll run the half marathon on Saturday after all."  It made absolutely no sense, but nothing in the last two months made a lick of sense either.  

And so three days later, I ran the most difficult thirteen point one miles a person has ever attempted.  Because my blood had been border-line stagnant for eight weeks, my poor kidneys woke up and said "What the hell is all this stuff going through us?  You expect us to filter all this blood when we have barely functioned since July?"  As a result, I had to pee every half mile.  Long distance racing takes a huge amount of mental stamina, and I had none.  It was September 13th- exactly two months to the day that Garrett died.  I crossed over the start line right at 7:30 that morning, but it was 8:30 Central Standard Time.  So that made it exactly two months and ten minutes after Garrett was pronounced dead.  

One of my very best friends, whom I registered with back in May, stayed with me every step of the way, even though she was well trained and ready for the race.  I told her repeatedly to go on and leave me as I hunched over the side of the road and let the grief and anxiety devour me.  But she never did, and I'll be forever grateful to her for that.  That last half mile was the hardest part for me because I was drained emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  At one point I said through my tears and under my labored breath "Garrett, Baby, I need you.  I can't do this.  I'm tired.  I'm broken.  I need you!"  And at that moment, a chill went through the air and Audrey felt it too.  And in my peripheral vision, I saw him.  Or maybe it was just the idea of him, but I felt his presence nonetheless.  I felt as though my lungs would burst, but it was more from the enormity of the experience of feeling my son right there with me.  

When we crossed over the finish line, I fell to my knees and wept huge crocodile tears.  Was he really there with me?  I like to think that he was.

*****

Tomorrow is April.  Garrett was born in April and the days and weeks leading up to his birthday have been excruciating as I've recollected on the days and weeks leading up to his birth.  I don't know of a mother who doesn't get a bit nostalgic when her child ages another year, but when that child is no longer here, the nostalgia turns into a heart wrenching ache.  I'm still running and cycling, though not as much as I should be.  My heart feels to tired and heavy these days, but I still get myself up and out the door as much as I can.  There's a certain closeness I feel to Garrett when I'm outside working my body to it's limit.  It brings completely new meaning to the phrase "push through the pain".  I literally run through the pain in my heart and my mind.  I know I'm not running TO Garrett, but I feel like I'm running FOR him.  I'm running for G.  Maybe it's because he's not here and I am, so I feel like I owe it to him to work my living body as hard as I can.  Some days, it's the only thing that reminds me that I'm still alive.  I'm still breathing, and I have to KEEP breathing.  Some days the only proof I have that I'm still putting one foot in front of the other is the hot, pounding blood I feel coursing through my veins.  It's when I can hear it pulsating in my head that I know I haven't given up.  

I'll be running another thirteen point one miles on April 18th in the Salt Lake Marathon, as a birthday gift to my baby.  I'm going solo this time and unlike September, my kidneys are well accustomed to the large amounts of blood filtering through them.  Hopefully I don't have to squat in the bushes or find a port-o-potty every half mile like last time.  Hopefully my muscle mass and lung capacity has increased once more since then but even if it turns out to be as taxing as before, I'm okay with that.  I'm not running for myself.  I'm running for my family.  I'm running for G.

I'm running to show my children that life hasn't stopped, even though we feel like it has.  In the face of utter adversity, we can do difficult things.  

I have a certain playlist on my MP3 player that is strictly devoted to my runs and rides while thinking of Garrett, which is 100% of the time I'm out there.  I sometimes add to the list as I hear a song and it resonates with me.  I am very selective with each song I put on this list because it's what helps push me through.  Each song holds a very significant meaning, although some of them would sound ludicrous to other people.  You may think "Why on earth is THAT song on the list?"  Well, the reasons are personal.  Some obvious, but some obscure.  In the spirit of my upcoming race, I thought I would share what's on this particular list.

"Running For G"-

Best Day Of My Life- American Authors
Dangerous- Big Data
This Love- Taylor Swift
Three Little Birds- Bob Marley
I'm On Fire- AWOL Nation
Redeemer- Steven Sharp Nelson
This I Promise You- NSYNC
Run- Snow Patrol
The Scientist- Cold Play
I Dreamed A Dream- Les Miserables
Love Me Like You Do- Ellie Goulding
Tender Mercies- Shane Jackman
Concerto In D Minor- Bach
Little Lion Man- Mumford And Sons
Apologize- OneRepublic
Dreaming Of You- Selena
One Last Night- Vaults
Unchained Melody- Righteous Brothers
Redeemer Of Israel- David Tolk
I Will Follow You Into The Dark- Death Cab For Cutie
Held- Natalie Grant
Under Pressure- Queen/Bowie
The Reason- Hoobastank
After The Storm- Mumford And Sons
Madness- Muse
The Walker- Fitz And The Tantrums
From Where You Are- Lifehouse
Carry On- Fun.
How To Save A Life- The Fray
Clouds- Zach Sobiech
Say Something- A Great Big World
The Last Goodbye- Billy Boyd
What A Wonderful World- Louis Armstrong
The Way I Am- Ingrid Michaelson
Somewhere Over The Rainbow- Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
A Thousand Years- Christina Perri
To Where You Are- Josh Groban
I Will See You Again- Carrie Underwood
Be Still My Soul- Mindy Gledhill
Somewhere Only We Know- Keane

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hiking Ensign Peak

Yesterday was bad for a lot of reasons, all of them revolving around the giant hole in our lives.  I've been having some health problems, and had to to a 24 hour urine sample for my gastroenterologist.  I had to take it back up to the hospital, which was yesterday.  On Thursday when I went to the same hospital and had some work done in the lab (and picked up the cute orange urine jug) Devin was with me.  And maybe it's because Devin was there and I couldn't fall apart, or maybe because we went in to a different part of the hospital that wasn't adjacent to the Emergency Room....I really can't say what made it different, but it was different.  On Thursday we pulled into the parking lot and I immediately saw the cement helicopter pad.  I averted my eyes as fast as I could, and changed the subject as soon as Devin said "Mom, what's the giant white X over there on the ground for?"

Yesterday evening, I was a total mess.  But I had to take my gross urine sample back to the hospital within a certain time frame, so I headed back up there.  I had no idea that because it was a Saturday, all laboratory drop offs had to be done via the Emergency Room.  I won't go into detail about what I experienced as I walked up to the big sliding glass doors and heard the noises, and saw the ambulance parked right outside.  Or how Triage looked exactly like it did at the hospital on That Day.  Or how "Saving Private Ryan" was playing on the TV in the corner, and it was the part near the beginning when Mrs. Ryan gets the telegram saying her sons had been killed.

Or how as I was waiting on the Lab Tech to come get me, a woman walked in to Triage, completely frazzled and crying with her young son who had been throwing up all day, then had a seizure on the way there.  I was sitting so close to the desk that I could hear every word she said through her tears.  I looked at her son with his ghost white face and I saw him go completely limp.  And I heard the mother tell the nurse his name was Garrett.  And then the father rushed in and lifted him into the wheelchair and he said "Don't worry, Gare.  It's gonna be okay."

And I felt the vomit rising in my throat and thought of the millions of times we called Garrett "Gare" for short.  And right then, I wanted to die all over again.

Luckily, the vomit stayed at bay long enough for me to get to to my car so I could expel it all over the parking lot.  It was a miserable and unfair experience, but I won't go into every detail.

I went into my "fear of being touched" mode.  It was so bad on the way home from the hospital, that I ran inside the house and started ripping my clothes off before I was fully inside our bedroom.  When it happens like that, I can't have anything touching my skin.  It's a mystery as to why it happens, but I have to be naked and alone.  Cody tried all evening to get me to talk to him about what was going on.  For some reason, I couldn't talk about any of it.  I couldn't get the words past my throat.  At one point Lauren came to snuggle with me on the bed and I almost came out of my skin.  I took her arm and said "Mommy can't be touched right now.  I saw something very scary at the hospital that made me sad, and I can't have anyone touch me."

I really don't know why everything lined up that night to give me that exact experience.  It seems cruel.  I finally did talk to Cody about it long after kids had gone to bed, and the two of us cried together until very late into the night.  I don't know what came of that other Garrett from the ER, but it haunted me all night long.

Cody woke up very early while the rest of the house was still sleeping.  He crept out and went to The Cemetery.

The rest of the morning found us lying in bed, crying together, reliving That Day and fantasizing about all the do-overs we wish we had.  It's something we think about a lot, as pointless as it is.  Then I decided we could lie in bed all day and feel like dying while our kids watched TV and played on the computer, or we could do something.  Church was definitely out of the question.  In our old life, we were a family that loved to hike and camp and spent very little time indoors.  My blue Kelty hiking backpack that carried Garrett all over Moab and the Wasatch Front is sitting in our storage unit, never to be used again by him.  We haven't done any hiking since Garrett died, but as I laid in bed and cried I suddenly had the urge to get out and hike.

Before I knew it, Cody was up packing a picnic lunch and I was in the shower.  The kids were pretty excited about going hiking because it's something from our old life that they've greatly missed.  We decided on Ensign Peak because oddly enough, it's a hike we've never done before even though it's so close to our house.  It will be a very long time before we can go on any trails we did with Garrett, and that's another thought that fills me with sadness and dread.

It was a glorious day outside and being at the summit, looking out at our city and the Great Salt Lake and thinking about the last time we were there together doing family pictures, made me smile through bittersweet tears.  I always wonder if Garrett is with us when we have new adventures like that.  I hope he is.  I hope with all my heart that he isn't missing a thing.












Signing the letter "G"



Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Resurrection

The last time I opened this blog was to post about our trip back in July.  I remember sitting on the porch swing as I watched the kids swimming.  I clicked "publish post" and I snapped my computer shut and jump back in the pool with them.  We swam for another hour, and then the sun got mighty high in the sky and I thought it was time to take a break for the afternoon.  We would reconvene our swimming after dinner.  It was time to get out of the sun and for me to take a hot shower.

And then less than an hour later, our lives were turned upside down and nothing would ever be the same again.

I recorded much of our family's history on the pages of this blog, for the better part of eight years.  I published the last thing on the day Garrett drowned.  It's been very sad for me not being able to open it again.  My life has been filled with endless pages of sadness in these last several months.  I can't imagine it feeling like anything but doom and gloom ever again, but I have to believe that one day, it will feel different.  I'm not foolish enough to believe it will ever be like it once was, but it can't always feel like...this.

Today while hiking I thought about our little corner of cyberspace and what it means to me (and my family) to continue in this endeavor of archiving the comings and goings of our lives.  Even if no one reads it, I do it for me.  I do it for us, our family.

So with a few clicks of my mouse and a new name for it, I've re-opened this sacred place in our universe.

Welcome home.

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