Writing 101

writing. living. learning.

Menu Close

Year: 2012 (page 1 of 10)

a final toast for mom

My mom died after a 15 month long battle with breast cancer at 3:37am on Friday, November 30, 2012. A week and two days later on Sunday, December 9, we gathered some family and friends at a local restaurant to commemorate my her. I wanted to same some words that day, but they never came. Here’s what I wanted to say:

Thanks for being here, everyone. I just wanted to say a few words about my mom… First of all, she wouldn’t want anything having to do with a eulogy as it would be far too pessimistic for her, so make sure your glass is at least half full (not to be confused with half empty) and make this a toast instead…

My mom was an amazing person. She touched many people’s lives in ways I think she never really knew, and certainly in ways we did not fully appreciate as kids growing up. I remember way back to our house in Mt. Greenwood, my mom was always running around the neighborhood checking in on the older folks who lived nearby. Nobody had to ask her. She just did it. She was always the nurse–thoughtful and truly caring.

My mom knew everyone she came into contact with by name and by the personal details of their lives. Even while in the throws of her battle with cancer, she would take time to make small talk, to ask her radiologist about his kids (whom she knew by name) or the office receptionist about her recent vacation. Under horrible circumstances, she was friendly when most of us would not be.

She was always one to send notes and cards to family, friends, and even friends of friends if she could get her hands on their address. I remember even in recent days, she had me drive her to the mailbox so she could mail a card of thanks. As I dropped it in the box for her, I saw it was addressed to me. I didn’t say anything. (She thought it was more special for a card to come in the mail.) When anyone in the family would visit my mom, there was always some kind of gift waiting–something she saw and thought you would like, a book she read and wanted to share, a special gift for one of her grandchildren… And the newspaper clippings…oh how she liked to clip articles to pass on–piles and piles of clippings: clippings of kindness, each and every one.

Even on her deathbed, she had a real interst in the mundane details of other people’s lives; she was never selfish, perhaps even selfless to a fault. She would ask me about work and my hobbies; she would worry that I wasn’t getting enough sleep; she wanted to know if I was eating well; she indulged me in all my petty concerns, while she lay their dying. While my mom had accepted her coming death, she continued to show kindness, hope, and enduring-optimism. These values–her values–are ones that have shaped my life.

This day is about my mom, but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge another person here today. A woman of great capacity for caring. While many visited my mom during her final days–coming and going–there was one person who was a constant presence at my mom’s side–my sister, Karyn. She took our mom into her home, took leave from her job, and put any self-interest on hold as she put everything into caring for our mother. I know this was not easy. There were many difficult moments–sometimes at 3am when there was no one but her to bring comfort to the pain and the fear. I think in large part it’s because of my sister’s presence that my mother was at such peace as she neared death and passed on. My sister’s capacity for love and kindness comes from my mother and she demonstrates it in a way that would certainly make her proud. Thank you, Karyn. I love you.

It is said, “We live as we die, and die as we live” (Edward Counsel).

Just days before her last, my mom told me that her final mission in life was to teach her children and grandchildren that one doesn’t need to be afraid to die. I believe she did this; she was a woman of integrity to the end and incredible grace. I will miss her. I think we all will.

To Celeste McGuire, my mom… and everything she was to us…

So, that’s it. The words are out there now–let loose into the universe. Maybe someone will hear them.

lovin’ of monsters and men

This is gaining more airplay (and I’m always pretty behind on the emerging music scene), but I just love it. Of Monsters and Men is an Icelandic indie/folk band that has been gaining popularity since the release of their 2011 debut album My Head Is an Animal. There lead single “Little Talks” is an international success and has hit #1 on the US Alternative Songs list. Despite the popularity, this song is still quite good and the rest of the album is strong with many standouts as well. Check them out here playing for the PBS show Sound Tracks: Music without Borders. It’s a rollicking good time.

2012 tecumseh trail marathon

This past Saturday, I ran the 10th annual Tecumseh Trail Marathon 26 miles through the woods and hilly terrain of central Indiana. This was my first marathon and the longest distance I’ve yet to run in my life. There’s nothing you can’t work out with a long run; sometimes you just have to run longer. I came to the event on Saturday with mixed emotions. My mother had just passed the night before after a 15 month battle with breast cancer. It was hard watching her decline–especially in the final [singlepic=1170,350,350] Running the 2012 Tecumsehdays of her life. When she passed Friday morning I debated whether I should go to Tecumseh, but in the end I decided I would. She would have wanted me to. Even towards the end, she continued to ask me how my training was coming along–ever concerned about the details in the lives of the people she loved. So, I ran. I ran inspired by my mother’s strength, her resolve, and her memory. I’d been training for the last six months for Tecumseh in eager anticipation; however, on Saturday, I met the trail with a heavy heart.

One foot in front of the next, I pushed through the woods and in the end met all of my goals for the day: I finished, I didn’t get hurt, I had fun (considering), and I beat my “secret” time goal at 5:40:37. The weather was quite nice–maybe a little warm actually hovering around the the mid 50s. I was half-hoping for more of a weather challenge; I even bought some microspikes on the off chance there would be some serious snow, but I’m not complaining. I have to say, the 10am start time is a nice feature of the Tecumseh Marathon as I’m not much of a 4am riser. I opted out of the infamous bus ride to the start line and we drove as a family instead to the trail head at the Morgan-Monroe State Park. We arrived just before 9 and there wasn’t a soul to be found. Before long, though, buses starting arriving, a tarp was strung between two distant trees with the sign “Men’s Room” taped to it, and runners gathered. As the watch ticked past 10, we learned that there was some “trouble” with one of the buses and the start would be delayed until the final bus of runners arrived. So we stood around for nearly an hour. Once the bus arrived, there wasn’t much fan fair–a few muffled words over a bullhorn and we were off across an open field, past a modest start banner, and into the woods. We had a long day ahead of us.

 My TTM in Photos

Honestly, the run went quickly with the company of others. Single-track racing is an experience that’s new to me. I’ve been training on single-tracks for months now, but never in the company of 700 other runners. Needless to say, my interval-based race strategy went out the window once I found myself locked into running formation with a dozen others. On the trail, there was little to no real opportunity to pass (unless you were racing very aggressively, which I wasn’t), so I found myself “power walking” most the uphills and running the flats and downhills. I had planned to run some of the hills and take some walking breaks on the flats, but this didn’t quite work out. In the end, the adjusted approach served me well. I was running right around a 12-minute pace for most of the race. This slowed a little as the day went on, but all in all my overall time was better than I had expected considering the elevation profile and challenges of the terrain.

There’s nothing you can’t work out with a long run; sometimes you just have to run longer.

Aidan and Chris were a wonderful support during the race (not to mention over the past 6 months). They were an awesome “trail crew,” cheering me on at several points where the trail crossed a road, handing me my special trail mix blend, and taking lots of photos. Honestly, I couldn’t have done this without their support. (Hell, I couldn’t do anything without their support. I love them so much.)

I crossed the finish line of my first trail marathon (first marathon ever) around 4:30 in the afternoon–welcomed by Aidan’s screaming cheers, the love of my beautiful wife, the company of other supportive runners, and a cup of hot soup. Not a bad way to spend a day really. It gave me time to think of my mom. I felt her with me on the trail.

© 2020 Writing 101. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.