When the first person in my orbit died, I ran. A young man, the brother of my ex-husband, a former boss, someone I knew well, someone I didn’t quite love, but I ran. He had died a tragic death in an accident that I can’t bring myself to put into words. The night I learned he’d died, I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill. It was dark out, perhaps even raining. I looked out the fogged floor-to-ceiling windows down onto the city street and ran. No keeping track of time. No thinking of stopping. No thinking of fitness. People rushed by going home on the street below me and I ran.
I was running away from the burden of loss. I was young then. Sebastian was one of the first of my cohort to die. The first person I knew well. Life has gone on and many more of my people have passed from this earth. People who filled out my life and inspired me and loved me and made me who I am. With each passing I ran. I ran for my friend Nancy, a life-long runner who died of lung cancer, the kind that women get who’ve never smoked. She was my inspiration to run. I’d see her each day leave work at lunchtime and run in the park. That’s what kept me going. I’d been running before I met her, but she was the one who pushed me to be regular. She pushed me to be careful as well. She never ran in the rain. I now never run in the rain.
For each person I’ve lost, running is my ritual, an honoring of my grief for them. I run trails now and somehow in the stillness of the countryside, I am with that person. They are with me, filling my loss. I let the full measure of them be inside me and I breath and sweat and take them in. I take in the sadness and loss.