As you know, I've been married a long time. A few years back I was suddenly put in the position of approaching a woman sitting by herself on a bench, and introducing myself. My liver didn't quite shift in my chest, but I sure thought about it for a minute. I most assuredly did not want to come across like some perv hitting on her.
This was at one of the private lakes in Calgary, and my coach at the time had arranged an evening swim courtesy of a resident. I got there on time, and didn't see anyone I knew. This tall blonde woman sitting there had what looked like a wetsuit peeking out of her bag. Eventually I summoned my courage and asked if she was Leaha, here to swim with our mutual coach. It turned out she was, and we chatted a bit as the others were very late.
Eventually we zipped each other up, (our wetsuits!) and just as we were about to get in the water everyone else showed. I nearly cooked waiting for them. We had a nice swim, and we were on chatting terms at the periodic occasions we met up.
Back in 2009 her and Shannon and I tackled the Calgary 70.3 course, and of course I blogged about it. She is an experienced runner and was working on building up to Ironman Canada 2011. She never got there. She was struck by a car. Here's a link to Leaha's story link. It isn't long, and it's worth taking a minute to read.
Since I've been involved in triathlon I've heard of a number of people being struck by cars or having bike crashes or being murdered as they are out for a run. Often they are the friend of a friend or blog buddy. Leaha is the first person I actually knew that had a really serious injury. It really isn't the same when it's someone you actually know.
I visited her in the hospital after she was out of the coma, but still nowhere near recovered. It is a very strange feeling to be talking to someone, when there isn't really anyone home. It was night and day visiting just before she moved back to Ontario for a while. While she was still struggling, someone was there to talk to.
Her recovery has been amazing, though she has had to work and struggle for every bit of it. She is one of the people I think about when my own life gets a little difficult, or so it seems. Compared to what she has gone through, my troubles are trivial. I only had to learn to eat, talk, and walk once. Seeing her up and around is a testament to the power of our brains to recreate ourselves in the face of tragedy.
It's related to how I feel watching the Ironman finish line camera. The pros are all nice and everything, finishing in times that make me shake my head, knowing how frigging difficult it is. But what I really like watching is after the 14 hour mark. These are my people. These are the people that probably are not sure if they would actually finish. It doesn't matter if you've done it before, every race is different. Crossing that line is an emotional experience for them. It was for me. That finish line photo is probably one of the biggest grins I've ever had in my life.
There are many days I wonder if I'm doing everything I can with my life. I go earn money to pay my bills, I dabble at fitness stuff, I write, I socialize with friends, I try to enjoy myself. But I wonder if I'm really making best use of who and what I am. If there is something I should be doing that is as difficult for me, as learning to walk and talk again was for Leaha.