The world lost an incredible mother, wife, daughter, friend, attorney, underprivileged advocate, and community member suddenly and unexpectedly on October 16, 2013. In honor of my late wife, Holli Wallace, I am training for the Hallucination 100 mile trail run and raising money for the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Yesterday was the day that Holli and I met 19 years ago. We met in the driveway of a house in East Lansing (photographed above by Holli in 2012.) Tomorrow will be the day that Holli and I got married 14 years ago. Holli used to joke that she would haunt me if she passed before I did, although I guess we expected this would be something we confronted in old age. It wasn't scary. It was a comforting idea. Of course, I don't believe in ghosts.
That hasn't prevented Holli from haunting me and I am grateful that she does. Even after two and a half years, I still imagine her sitting next to me in the car or on the couch. I hear what she would say in response to both small and large events in my life. Memories replay on a daily basis with sad, but comforting detail. At times, the line between when she was here and when we lost her becomes blurred and I forget that she never saw Oliver play soccer, Elliott sell root beer floats, or even meet Peanut. I know that it is because I saw her there. I sometimes wish that I believed in ghosts, but I don't. This hasn't stopped Holli from haunting me. It is sad sometimes, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Now I need your help keeping Holli's memory alive by helping me support the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region.
1) Go here to order a shirt before June 12. All proceeds go to the Children's Grief Center.
2) Make a donation here in honor of Holli and in support of my run in September.
3) Share this post and, if you knew Holli, perhaps share a memory of two also.
**If I already told you that I would send you a shirt, no need to order one as I will have one sent to you.**
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Just to set the stage, I’m writing this from a hotel in Beijing while Denise and the boys are at the final grief support group potluck. It’s no secret that I like to travel and enjoy a job where that is one of the perks. Still, each trip brings a negotiation with guilt over leaving the boys and I am grateful to Denise and Mike for taking such wonderful care of the boys when I am gone.
When I did the No Wimps Challenge at the end of April, I was pleased to reconnect with my old running buddy Dirt Dawg. We ran together for nearly the entire marathon. He actually paced me during my first attempt (and fail) at the Hallucination 100 back in 2010. That race, and even this trip in a way, reminded me of my race crew.
Holli, of course, was my crew at all of my major races. For those of you unfamiliar with the ultrarunning world, your crew are the people who stay up ridiculous hours following you from aid station to aid station to fill water bottles, tend to sore feet, provide fresh shoes or clothes, remind you to eat, drink, or take electrolyte pills, check you for blisters, provide encouraging words, lie to you that you “look great!”, bring you food, put up with general crankiness, and basically keep you on track to finish. Needless to say, crewing a runner is more than a matter of just logistical support. In particular in 50 or 100 mile races, cognitive reasoning takes a hit. I’ve seen things in the forest that weren’t there (mostly wishful thinking that aid stations were closer than they are.) I’ve forgotten to eat or drink and neglected blisters. Towards the end of most races, I lose track of what I need and become convinced that I am unable to finish in the time allotted. This can become rather pronounced after 70 or 80 miles. It’s hard to spend 28 hours convincing yourself that finishing is possible.
It becomes important at those times to have someone who knows what you need even if you don’t yourself know. While only a fleeting runner, Holli had become well aware of my preferences and habits on a race. I’m sure that she could easily carry her own in a conversation about the nuanced differences among socks and shoes that runners seem to enjoy. Most importantly, of course, she knew what I needed even when I didn’t. Having someone like that in your corner can take you incredible places and, among other things, get you through three 100 mile race completions.
I won’t reiterate the now redundant point that my training is behind what I wanted it to be and I still haven’t ordered the t-shirts, although I have figured out which company to use. I’ll highlight more positively that my training is still on track for the race and that I will “officially” launch fundraising efforts when t-shirt become available in a few weeks. I want to thank Mario Volante, the Awad family, and Uncle Wing and his family, for their donations so far. I also want to say a special thanks to my mom and dad for their generous contribution.
Monday, April 18, 2016
NO WIMPS Challenge with a half marathon down in Pinkney followed by a marathon on Sunday. I did this is 2013. It's the first of several small goals I use to keep me on track for the big run. I'm marginally prepared although I expect experience at this race and in general will be enough to carry me through to the end, even if my times aren't what they could be. Life has gotten in the way lately and sidetracked my well organized training plan. In the past month or so I've been sick, the boys have been sick, our basement has flooded, we've celebrated holidays and a birthday, we've had a sleepover with a houseful of energetic boys, Elliott and I road tripped to Niagra Falls, and I've been down to Mexico for a few days. I sometimes tell students that you need to have life plans so that you know how to gauge how serious things are when they go wrong. It also gives you some sense of the path that you should return to after recovering from those inevitable moments when life gets in the way.
Elliott and Oliver lead the path that guides me. The problem is that there are thousands of daily decisions and negotiations along that path that rarely have clear solutions or answers. Family, work, and (dare I even suggest?) time for myself are a juggling act with ongoing decisions of what to drop and what not to drop. What kind of parent does it make me that goes for a three and a half hour run on the eve of leaving his kids to work in Mexico? I think that I am doing fine, but questions like this cross my mind all the time. When Elliott was upset that Holli had to work she would explain to him that she enjoyed her work and that, while she would miss him, it was important to her and that she was grateful to have the job and that she was helping people. I remind myself that living a life that is not just for them is the only way to live a life that will be meaningful for them.
Perhaps it is only related in my mind, but yesterday was Elliott's first travel soccer game and today was Oliver's first soccer practice of the season. It seemed to me another step in their independence. I love to watch them play, especially in those moments when they are so clearly thriving in the moment. It doesn't work all the time, but I hope that they know that there are moments when I am away from them and thriving too.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
I think that there is a very reasonable question regarding why I chose the Children's Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region as a the charity to raise money for in Holli's honor. I'm not sure if there is a single answer so much as a confluence of things that just made it the right thing to do. As I sit here looking at old photos of Elliott's part birthdays, I am reminded of what a dedicated mother she was and how important that it was for her children to be nurtured and loved. In fact, it was a mantra that I used frequently to get through the first year. I asked myself what she would have wanted most and the answer was always that the boys be nurtured and loved to the best of my ability. There are some days that I do better than others, but it was and still is a clear goal.
Today, Elliott spent his birthday without his mother. It will be like that for the rest of his life as, of course, it will for Oliver. This isn't a burden that goes away in a year, or two years, or even decades. After today, it will be another holiday, major life event, or life challenge. I'm sure that they will think about it in different ways as they get older, but it will always be there. A hole in their lives. It's a hard thing to watch children grow up without a parent. The truth is that there aren't very many people or places that understand what it is like for a child confronting this type of loss.
We have missed very few support group sessions organized by the Children's Grief Center. Elliott and Oliver never fuss about going and are always glad to go and glad to be there. The staff and volunteers know them well, are exceptionally warm and friendly, and always patient and kind. I know that it is a place where they feel like they belong in a world where they don't quite fit in the same way that they used to.
Elliott and Oliver are certainly testament to the benefits of the Center, but I know that there are more children out there who are facing similar challenges who may not know that the Center is there as a resource. It's a hard thing to confront. Going the first time was hard. It still is sometimes, but the simple truth is I'm not sure where we would go if the Center was not there. I don't know of another place filled with kind, caring staff and volunteers, as well as people who also know what it is like to spend another birthday without a mother. I wish that the boys didn't need to belong to a group like this, but we didn't chose this path and I am grateful to be able to support a group that will help the boys move along it. It's what Holli would have wanted.