Last October I told my friend Natalie we should run the Ogden Marathon.
I didn't even want to run a marathon.
I am not a good runner, marathon training actually makes me gain weight and not lose it, and I'm not fast. Ogden is in a different state. There was no GOOD reason to run the marathon. Plus, it was a lottery race...we probably wouldn't even get in.
We got in.
So we trained. We woke up sometimes at 4:30 am on Saturdays and dropped our cars off in the desert and ran home. Tried to be back for t-ball games. Tried to run during the week early before school carpools. Dropped off water bottles, bought good shoes, clocked a lot of miles.
After our 18 mile run my knee started to hurt. Not normal running pain but shooting pain all up and down my leg. Then my hip - same thing. I stayed off of it, iced it, rolled it, stretched it, prayed for it, elevated it and finally resorted to four cortisone shots, two in each site.
I couldn't run three miles the Monday before the race. For some reason I assumed it would be fine.
Natalie and I drove with my kids almost 500 miles the Thursday night before Saturday's race. We considered driving Friday but figured a day of rest would be good.
Earlier that week my mom informed me my grandma (her mom) wasn't doing well. After 10 years of fighting Ahlzeimer's disease, she was no longer able to walk and wasn't eating much either. While it sounded bad I also knew her condition could last months.
On Friday morning, my mom told me she'd come home from work at lunch so we could visit my grandma together. Instead of waiting I showered, fed my kids, then dropped them off at Ann Dee's. I drove as fast as I could to her home. I jumped out of my car and ran with my baby until I was sitting next to her and holding her hand.
She was breathing hard but next to her was the most beautiful view of Mt. Timpanogos and the valley she'd loved all her life. She had a soft pink blanket covering her and another bed in the opposite corner of the room where my grandpa slept so she'd never, ever be alone. We sat and chatted while I held her hand. My grandpa and I shared stories about her and laughed a lot and cried too. He held Ruby while I took these pictures (they won't rotate)(?). Halfway through our visit, his phone rang so he left me alone with my baby and my grandma. I climbed up next to her in bed and whispered in her ear. I told her how much I loved her. How I was trying to be like her. I thanked her for waiting for me. And then I told her to go home...and to give my dad a hug when she got there.
She just kept breathing in and out, in and out.
After an hour I told my grandpa I'd better get my boys before they destroyed Ann Dee's house. I could tell he wanted me to stay longer but I just couldn't. I needed to leave.
He said it was only a few minutes after I left that she took her last breath. After 56 years of marriage they were alone together when she slipped from this life to the next. I felt like she'd waited for me. She knew we all needed to say goodbye.
The next morning was the race.
I've never woken up before a race and felt so apathetic. It was pouring rain outside...not nervous. My knee hurt before the race even started...still wasn't nervous. My mind was on my family and my mom losing her mom and the sweet goodbye the day before.
We stood in the rain for a couple hours pre-race. No idea what was coming.
After the events of the previous day I sort of assumed it would be like a miracle race. Where the clouds would part, the sun would come out, and my knee and hip would work together because something good needed to happen.
That didn't happen.
While I love the rain and don't mind running in it, torrential downpour for 26.2 miles can be discouraging. Cold winds and three layers of soaked clothing is hard. My Ibuprofen turned to goo from the rain as did my iPod and phone. My knee held out until somewhere around mile 20 then just couldn't hold weight anymore. I tried limp-running but it wasn't much faster than walking and hurt even more. I realized I wasn't going to be able to run the last six miles of the race. Both hips were cold and achy and pain was shooting through my knee and foot. So I limped. Amy (my sister in law) stayed with me because she is a good, good person. Once in awhile I'd try to run again but my knee was done.
I realize this is a long post.
When I crossed the finish line, Alana was there with her little family. Tommy had stood in the rain for hours wondering where I was. Amy's husband Kevin was there taking pictures of it all.
During those last slow miles my thoughts floated from feeling pathetic to feeling angry to feeling stressed about my knee to then realizing this trip had nothing to do with the race. That signing up in October was never about crossing the finish line or beating previous times. I drove home just in time to say goodbye to my fiery, strong, smart, determined grandma.
My grandma was the one who never let us walk to Minuteman for candy until we'd pulled weeds or read books for at least an hour. She was the one who loved sitting on the back patio after dinner and once asked my high school boyfriend, "Why the hell aren't you going to college before your mission?"
My grandma was the one who took us shopping for a new top when we were sad, who listened to my breakup stories through sobs, who made the best roast and potatoes and who was never afraid to work.
One summer night she made us cantaloupe and tomatoes from her garden for dinner. It was delicious.
Grandma Jewel was the person who pulled me aside one Christmas and explained that not everyone got a lot at Christmas, so to keep my presents a secret and maybe tell them I got one or two shirts instead. That way no one felt bad. She was the one who picked out a book for us each Christmas and every single time it was the best book I'd ever read.
My grandma helped my mom through horrible times and treated my dad like he was one of her own kids. She accepted his quirks and when he died, even though she was sick, she grabbed my arm and told me, "I'm so sorry. This is just horrible."
The summer I lived with them in college, a date once showed up and honked for me when he pulled into the driveway. My grandma was the one who asked who the hell was honking then stomped outside and told him to ring the doorbell if he wanted to take me out again.
And finally, my grandma was the one sitting at the foot of my bed the morning I left for college. She told me that college could be a difficult, lonely time. She told me that many girls married just to escape it. She warned me against doing this and made me promise I'd wait until I found the right one. She reminded me that this is how she met my grandpa and he was a perfect fit.
She was right. I'm glad I waited. And I'm so thankful she did too.
awesome post, Holly
the black and white pictures are beautiful also.
I imagined tears just rolling down your cheeks while you typed this.
She sounds like an incredible lady.
BTW, you ran like a bad a.
Loved reading it.
So sorry to hear about our grandma, but I'm so glad that you got to be with her at the end.
And way to tough it out in the race...that is a horrible way to start any race. You are one tough cookie.
It's nice to see that your feistiness is genetic. Great story, you'll be glad you documented it. As for the run...my knees cry for your knees. Let's fix them and do it again.
thanks so much Holly! I had a similar relationship with my dad's mom and was able to be with her right before she died. I lost several other loved ones that same year (your dad & Grandma Martha included). I am ever grateful that I got to say goodbye to most of them and tell them I loved them.
such a sweet post, Holly, thank you for sharing...and congrats on finishing another marathon. I have had some horrible marathon experiences with it being too hot and always wished for rain and cold and then I got my wish when I ran a half marathon in chicago in brutally cold pouring rain and windy conditions and it was AWFUL! I cussed in my head the whole 13.1 miles. so hard to run in conditions like that, and that was only a half! So you are my hero.
Such an eloquent tribute Holly. You truly need to write a book. I haven't read too many blogs that can make me laugh and cry. You have a gift. Also, I'm a strong believer in Heavenly Father using events and situations to help us on our lives missions....even marathons.
Julie, Katy, Kristin, Veronica, Thank you!
Kelli, I appreciate it. I didn't feel very tough but it's okay.
Wendy, thanks for sharing that with me.
Tiffany, I usually prefer rain over heat but this was sort of like running in a cold shower for hours.
Brenda, Thank you and I agree that these events are not coincidences...
I don't know anyone that can write and express herself as well as you, Holly. I love your blogs and tributes to family members. Your Grandma Jewel was a special person with a zest for life & a deep and abiding love for her family. I'm glad I had a chance to meet her, she had such a glowing countenance. As always, you brought tears to my eyes with your special gift. Our thoughts & prayers are w you.
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