Finding Comfort in the Shadows. Running to process the loss of a loved one.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Sometimes life throws a pretty fast curveball.  There are days you're ready to catch it, and days you're knocked to the ground.  I'm a grateful, happy and positive person, but I still have many moments of anger, frustration, doubt and sadness.  I am not, however, a person who lives in fear and have always trusted in the timing of the universe. Even when I can not comprehend someone else's behavior or I don't want to face reality, I guess there is some part of me that holds on to trusting in the timing of the universe. I have no idea why, or how, bad things happen to good people. Why some lives are long and some are way too short. It doesn't make sense whether it is natural causes or a senseless act. Loss rips us open and leaves a wound that never fully heals. A beautiful quote from Rumi helped this past week; "The wound is the place where the light enters you." Unfortunately, my heart now holds another light for a loved one who left us too soon. 

An amazing woman and dear friend, Alonna, died on November 23, 2015. It was a shocking and tragic loss to her family. I don't add friends, because everyone that Alonna knew she treated as family. Every single person at her funeral and celebration of her life was family to her. So, we, her family, cried and laughed and cried some more this weekend honoring the beautifully full life this woman lived. 

Alonna was a runner. As many family members pointed out, she was fast and fiercely dedicated. When we ran together, she always had to slow down for me. My heart and lungs worked a little harder to push myself to her "slow" pace. She was inspiring, she was strong and she gave it her heart. This not only describes her running but the speed of her life. 

I got to run the morning of her funeral and celebration. The other runners in the family had gone out already and put in a few miles before I woke up. (Our kids stayed home with the grandparents, so we got to sleep in! 9am, glorious.) 

I headed out by myself for a quick loop around the neighborhood. 

It was a beautiful, sunny morning, 70 degrees. I began my run saying, "Alright, Alonna, let's go." 

When I'm processing loss, I usually talk to the person who's gone. It makes me feel a little better to talk to them and trust that they can hear me. So, that morning, I talked to Alonna a few times during my run. I thanked her for the gorgeous day, for the sunshine and for joining me on my run.

I looked at the ground every so often and noticed my shadow ahead of me and sometimes behind me. The shadow, connected to my feet felt like Alonna running with me. When my shadow was ahead of me, she urged me to push a little more, to try and keep up with her. When my shadow was behind me, I felt like she was saying, "I've got your back, I'm right here. Don't slow down, you've got this." Sometimes while running, I need a shift in perspective from struggle or effort, to gratitude. How grateful I am to have legs that move me forward, lungs and a heart that are strong and work for me. I shift my perspective and remind myself that I am incredibly lucky to have another day to run or move my body in whatever way I choose. 

The shadow on the ground made me remember and feel connected to my friend (family member) who's physical life was too short. 

I think shadows will now be a comforting reminder of connection to the loss of a loved one. 

Feeling that wound in your heart aching? Step outside, feel the sun, look down at your shadow and remember you're never alone. They'll always have your back or urge you to move forward. 

On my run, the heat picked up and I thanked her for the shade. The shadows of the trees were comforting, cooling and healing. 

As your heart continues to heal from the loss of a loved one, I hope that you find comfort in the shadows. Talk to that person. Continue to run through life with them. Open your heart and eyes to trust, they're still with you. I promise, they'll keep urging you forward. 

Do you want a guarantee on that? I can give it to you. As Alonna's oldest son spoke to the group of over a hundred that day back at home, we gathered outside by the pool. The shadow of a cloud came over us, a few raindrops sprinkled down. Nothing heavy, just a little mist. Her son was just closing his speech and his step brother gazed up and said, "Look!" Shining over head was a full rainbow stretching the sky. There was not a dry eye at that moment as we all looked to the sky and saw Alonna's message saying, "I hear you son, I'm proud of you, and I promise, I'm still checking in, shining on you with love." 

That rainbow was not a coincidence. I believe, in my heart, it was her message to us that her energy is still here. She is ok and at peace. 

As we approach the holiday season, I hope this might bring some comfort, a little healing and light in your heart as you mourn the loss of a loved one and continue to receive their energy. 

I hope that you may find comfort in the shadows. Keep running, keep moving forward, keep loving. 

Life. Is. Short. Please, above all else, recognize the life you've been given. Live it with love, purpose, generosity, excitement and gratitude. Live fearlessly with passion.  Alonna did and still does within us. 

Looking forward to our next run together, my friend... 

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