Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Life's Unanswered Questions, Thirteen Miles, and a Friend

by Beth Saadati

With another hour left in the race, my legs begin to tire. My calves start to cramp. The familiar burn sets in, but the South Carolina inclines still need to be ascended. Every time we go uphill, Rocky picks up speed.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“It’s like pulling off a Band-Aid. You do it fast to get it over with.” He powers ahead in a challenge to follow then waits for me to catch up. In wonder, I shake my head . . . and keep on running.

* * *
Two years ago I’d run my first half marathon to push through grief after my teenage daughter’s death. Last year I’d run to conquer the course with my running partner, Amy, and her son, Hansel—one of my favorite students, one of Jenna’s friends. This year I’d wanted to complete it a third time, although I no longer knew why.

With a son or daughter’s suicide, a wave of grief often crests every few days for the first four years. Nearly three years in, healing had gradually come. At the end of August, however, a tsunami hit hard.

Minutes after being told a mother’s daughter was missing, memories had come rushing back. Details and emotions I’d buried when, for a couple of long hours, my daughter hadn’t been found. Flashbacks of the unforeseen trauma from the night my husband and I, with a roomful of friends, were delivered the devastating news. 

New questions now haunted me. “Why, God? When Jenna was missing, where were you?” Though I wrestled to receive answers, none came.

But a Facebook message arrived from Ohio in the form of a belated birthday post from Rocky, another favorite former student when he was a high school freshman and I was twenty-three. Half my lifetime ago he’d led in YoungLife, served on the newspaper staff, and kept track stats for the team I’d coached. He’d even been a groomsman in my wedding.

When is your half marathon? he asked. Maybe I could come down.

It’s in two months, but I'm way behind in training for it. This year I’ll do well to finish.

I’m marking my calendar, wrote Rocky. Let me see what I can do.