A few years ago a close friend passed away from a motorcycle accident. This situation and her life had a significant impact on me in ways I did not even realize until years later. I would like to explain how she changed my outlook on life and how she gave me the burning desire to take every opportunity to live.
I remember the day as if it were yesterday. My good friend Tom called my cell phone and told me Mary Jo was hit by a car while on her motorcycle. She worked in Fort Mill, SC and had gone to lunch with her coworkers. They all left in a car and she followed them on her motorcycle as they went back to the office. She was at an intersection when a minivan did not see her and ran right into her. Ironically this is the same area I work at as a Paramedic. I believe that a higher force protected me from not being on shift that day and getting this call. I would not have been able to handle the situation and been professional if I arrived at the call and found out it was Mary Jo, my sweet friend.
Tom said that she had a pulse on scene and was being airlifted to the trauma hospital in NC. I knew the hospital she was going to very well since I have taken so many of my own critical patients there and felt confident that it was the best place for her to go. I was home at the time and told Matt I needed to leave right away and go to her. I grabbed my purse, went down stairs, and was standing in the garage when Tom called me again and said her heart stopped in the helicopter and they were unsuccessful in restarting it. The next few moments became a blur as I just broke down. I couldn’t believe this beautiful woman in her mid-thirties with two sons and who was trying so hard to make a good life for them and herself was gone…just like that.
Over the past couple of years while getting to know her we had laughed, partied together, and planned adventures, but most of all admired each other’s spirit. She was a truly good person and I was drawn to her positive outlook on life. She had her flaws and had been through many challenges as we all have but she always seemed to know things would be okay. She started running and joined a running club. She was starting to do half marathons and wanted me to run with her. We decided on a race in Myrtle Beach that October. Unfortunately, we never did get to race together. The following year I ran that very race in her honor and thought about her the whole way.
After her death, something inside me changed. I didn’t even know it. As time went by I began to push myself harder in sports, especially endurance sports. I started taking opportunities to try new things much more. I decided to try Polyamory and that turned out to be a good experience. In a nutshell, I really began living. Subconsciously I didn’t want to miss anything or a memory I could make and cherish. The more I did the more I wanted to do. The same happened with running the distances I run now. Marathons were fun but not enough. That lead to a 50 miler, then my first 100 and that created a schedule of 100’s. I have my eye on a 200-mile race in the future (possibly 2018) that I want to experience. Each of these experiences, the good and the bad, help me feel like I am living.
I know this sounds crazy but it is all tied together with her passing and my current lifestyle. A few months ago I was taking a bath with Mark in my home when we were sipping wine and having a conversation as we do regularly. I started talking about the need to do as much as I can because it makes me feel good to experience so much. He wondered when this desire started and I thought about the time frame. It turned out that it was around the time Mary Jo passed that I really started kicking up my desire to do more and go further. It was such a light bulb going off moment! I couldn’t believe that I evolved into a better and stronger person because I mourned her loss and admired her desire for life….all subconsciously. It was a big moment of clarity for me and I am grateful that Mark was there to listen to me talk and help me realize this concept.
The whole next day she was on my mind and how much she affected me in such a positive way. Even before I realized this I would often ( and still do) pray to her. I know she is in heaven and is watching over me. We still laugh together and even cry on these races. You may not believe this and that is okay but I would like to share a moment that she literally touched me since she passed. I was running the Charlotte Marathon a few years ago. I had an injury in my right leg from a pulled muscle I sustained during training. Being stubborn and since I had paid for the race already I wanted to do it. I told Matt I would run half and if I felt I could keep going I would. We made it to 13.1 and I was in a lot of pain but more determined to finish what I started. I told him I was going to go for it and I would see him at the finish line. I was moving along slowly and not too well. The sweeper van was not far behind me and I wanted to quit. I was going down a straightaway when I felt a hand lay lightly on my back between my shoulder blades. It did not scare me but I thought someone was behind me. I looked and no one was there. Throughout the race, I was praying to Mary Jo as I usually do in the beginning of my races so I knew she was there with me. I am 100% confident that it was her giving me encouragement to keep going, and I did. I had a long way to go and the van passed me a few times but I would keep going and pass it back. I caught up with the sweeper ladies towards the last 3 miles and ran with them. They were so happy, joking around, and seemed so effortless while I was in such pain and struggling. At one point I thought that they were being mean for being so happy while I hurt so badly. Then I realized I was being ridiculous and needed to get this race done.
I finished the race and walked right into Matt’s happy arms. Up to that point, it was the biggest challenge during a run I had experienced. I wanted to quit so badly multiple times. I feel that Mary Jo was there and helped me through it. She also has shown me how precious life is and how the desire is within us to go enjoy it.
I miss her deeply and know we would have gone on so many adventures together if she was still here. I have no doubt she is waiting in heaven for me to get there eventually. It makes me smile knowing she is still very much here with me, even to write this blog. I was on a run last week and the idea to write about her popped into my head. Every day since the run I kept thinking that I need to write this down. I needed to finish my Tunnel Hill race report before I could write on more topics so that motivated me to get that report done and to then write about my friend. She taught me many lessons by the way she lived her life and her perspectives. I’m sure she had no idea how important she was to me and neither did I.
Attending her funeral was one of the most difficult things I have had to do. I went with Matt and my friend Tom, they both knew her as well. I knew it was going to be an emotional day and it sure was. I barely made it into the church when I saw her two young sons in a pew near the front. I lost it at that point and had to retreat to the back of the church as the emotions took over me. It was a closed casket and there were beautiful flowers. There were so many people from different areas of her life there….coworkers, runners, family, tattoo artists (she had a few tattoos and loved them), and more. People that came together to say goodbye to an angel that was so full of life. I felt so bad for her sons and what they will have to go through as they grow up without her. I felt bad because I wanted her back and to make more memories with her. We still had plans.
People are put on this earth for a reason. Some people are here to teach us lessons and to help us. I know she was just a friend of mine that I had good times with but she had a reason to be in my life. She touched my soul and awakened the desire to live more. To take chances and do what makes you happy. My life has had many ups and downs but with them comes realizations that have impacted the way I think and do things. Being Poly and running 100 miles are far from easy but they’re experiences you will never forget. You reach a point in a race where you are so depleted and tired and people want to help you…you feel what compassion is. You take a chance to go against societal norms and open your marriage…. and feel fulfilled. It’s these types of moments that make me a better person. The better I am the better I can be for others. I feel that when I can look past myself and touch the lives of other people then I am truly making a difference in the world for the better. That is exactly what Mary Jo did for me and I will always love her for it.