Thursday, January 31, 2013

Survivor's Guilt

Today Brian Rose passed away. He was part of the same navigational campaign as me, and . He died today in his mid 30’s. I met him less than 5 months ago and today he passed. These are the days where you have survivor’s guilt, where you wonder how the hell some people who are far far better men than I’ve ever been don’t make it. These are the days where I am comforted and comfortable with the fact that I chose to spend my time with my daughter. She’s six years old and by the grace of God, I don’t know if there is some sense of purpose people feel about survival but I choose to believe that I am standing to be able to stand next to her and hold her hand. And there are zero good parents in the world who wouldn’t take the opportunity to do so. In that original hospital bed all I was worried about was providing financial resources was for 2 great girls in my life… well now there’s only one of those girls left. The money is there and so now I’m focused in on the time and the relationship. Now an insurance is paying the bills and I wake up, get my daughter ready, get her to school. I am there the moment she gets out.

At the 30k on Sunday, a runner said after the awards, man if you can do that without a coach and with a stroller you ought to get better training and you could be seriously competitive. I smiled and couldn’t care less. I’ll walk with her rather than win an Olympic medal.  People have said you were valedictorian; I bet you could find some compensatory strategies and get a job. Let me be clear, if I could get a job and be a millionaire, it wouldn’t be a fraction of what each second with her is worth.  There will come a day where, like all children should, she’ll want her independence and want to push back and when that day comes, when that day comes, I hope to be the one whose heart is broken cause his little girl has become a woman and that it’s time for me to watch from a further distance. But if the day comes where I leave in my 30’s like Brian did, then swallowing my pride and my attitude than I can do “anything” was completely worth it to get a few more moments with that moon princess.  I rarely think I will beat this, I’m a poker player, you bet the odds but if I manage to beat this thing… I can’t imagine regretting that I put my effort into catching as many moments of this kid’s life as possible. And if that’s the lesson of cancer, please please keep teaching it to me. If the day comes where I beat it and she’s grown up enough to not care if she gets kissed goodnight, I don’t care if someone finds me fit to clean bathrooms or offering would you like fries with that. The pride from that stuff is long gone.

Brian and another girl I met through Livestrong both went through whirlwind romances after cancer and got married. When I met Brian, he was there at the dinner with his wife, Lupe who was pregnant while he was in treatment. We had watched each other videos and I think we both felt that in the short exchange we had some real aspects of us captured in those films but that it was also nice to meet each other in person. He was going through treatment and we both had our own lives so we only ever exchanged a few messages but perhaps my favorite thing he said to me is that Livestrong should have gotten me running with a stroller… That 30k picture of us finishing and winning my age group and both of us smiling is my Facebook profile picture. And trust me even if I break a 3 hour marathon in 2 weeks, that 30K will still mean at least 8 times more.

I am not at my emotional sharpest today. I’m not sure I ever am. But today, while most people were at work, I was doing my daughter’s laundry and spent a few minutes with her after school before her mother arrived. Tomorrow I go to be the “mystery reader” at her school. Mondays I volunteer at their library. When I graduated Valedictorian, when I graduated Suma Cud Laude with 2 degrees, I promise you that being a parent wasn’t something that concerned me or that I honestly cared much about. Now, it concerns me more than anything.

Once upon a time I wanted to pay it back but I choose to pay it forward. I am trying to do it as well as I know how, continuing to volunteer for running events, now that some things are more in order I am going to get back to helping organize tournaments in ultimate more. I am also currently fundraising for the two organizations that helped me fight the most and today we will make it special. I have gotten to make some connections through this process that until the memory itself fades will be permanently etched. One of those has been Livestrong and the Austin Marathon, if you want to support that cause donate here. If you live in Austin and donate at least $25 today, I will get you an Austin marathon bag. The other is Duke If you donate at least $25 there we will be doing a raffle where you could win a 4 night stay in Sonoma, the place I went to from winning the trip from the Brainpower 5K which is incredible. If you can’t, you can’t. If you can only donate to one, well today donate to Duke because somehow I dropped the ball there and this is the first time I’ve raised money for Duke despite having done so for brain cancer research and for Livestrong.  

And whether it’s your daughter, your friends, your girlfriend, your mother, hug someone tight whether or not you donated. Because if you're reading this, both you and I survived today and surviving through that hug is something you should have no guilt about. 

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