In Death, A Lesson On Living Fully

By Cindy Bean

I’ve never been hugely athletic.

Sure, I ran in junior high and I swam on a team in high school. I was the slowest person on the team, but I stuck with it and found a great community of encouragement and support.

For the past 39 years, athletic endeavors have just not been in my DNA. Like many moms, I took some aerobics classes after having kids, and I walked with a neighbor for a few years when my youngest daughter started kindergarten, but that’s really the long and short of it.

This year I had two surprises: First, realizing that I’ll soon turn 57. Talk about a shock to my system. Second, I agreed to participate in my first relay marathon. Today was my first official training day.

Ten years ago my father died of leukemia. I signed up for the marathon for Team in Training to raise money in honor of his memory. It felt right to do something to really honor him on this unwelcome anniversary of his death. And because two years ago, my mom also passed away.

My sister, Lisa, and I spent many days at her bedside as she suffered through six months of critical care before she finally died. Six months in four different hospitals – that’s how she spent the last 180 days of her life. I know it is not how she hoped to live those days.

She never got to hold my granddaughter, Isobelle, who is mom’s namesake. She never got to meet little Fish, my adorable grandson who would have made her laugh. She didn’t eat the foods she loved. She didn’t get to breathe the beautiful summer, fall or winter air that year. And she wasn’t able to communicate enough for us to really talk, laugh or cry together.

Despite such a terrible ordeal, my mom gave me and my sister a tremendous gift during that time. She gave us the gift of owning our health and taking responsibility for our bodies. Unlike dad, who had a terrible blood cancer, mom died because she stopped living.

She stopped eating well, laughing, moving, and trying to live after dad died. Some would say she died of a broken heart. I would say she died of a broken body – because she stopped taking care of it.

It was a wake-up call. After her funeral I started paying attention again. I was pushing 60, overweight and poorly hydrated. Today I walk 25-30 miles a week and I make sure I drink water every day. I’m still pushing 60 and still overweight but I’m living. I’m moving. I’m laughing and crying.  And I’m training for a marathon.

My No Barriers Pledge is to challenge myself physically and intellectually every day. It’s born of the suffering my mom and dad both endured as their lives ended. I know I can’t control or predict how my life will end, but I can own my body and my health today. I can live with a full heart and love myself enough to take care of this life I’m blessed to live.

So with a grateful heart I trained today with my new Team in Training buddies. I have a long way to go but today was a good day.

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