Friday, August 21, 2009

Paul - 8/21/09

Paul (AZ)

Last night, my running buddy, Charlie (CA), called me and asked me to talk to Paul. He told me that he would not be able to respond, but if I could just say something to him, it would lift his spirits. I was caught off-guard. I had nothing prepared. What would I say?

Without thinking, I said, "yes, of course." He told me to hold on. I called out Paul's name. There was only silence. I spoke words that probably didn't mean much. I can't even recall exactly what I said to him. I do know that I told him that I was praying for him and that I cared about him. I hope it was enough.

Charlie came back on the line. Fearing the worst, I asked, "why can't he talk?" Charlie said that he's too weak. I told Charlie that I was glad that he was able to visit him. We said our good-byes. I hung up the phone, wishing that I could do more and wishing that I was quick-minded enough to offer words of encouragement and comfort.

Last Friday night, before I headed to Michigan for the Fallsburg Marathon, Charlie sent me an e-mail and then called to see if I had opened it. I hadn't. As I was talking with him, I opened and read the e-mail. Oh, no . . . .

Another friend of Paul's had been trying to get in touch with Charlie to tell him that Paul had liver cancer and was in a hospice. We all know the meaning of a hospice. The doctors have given up on him. Our running buddy is dying.

Saturday night, Charlie called to say that he had called the hospice and would go to Arizona to visit Paul. It turns out that our friend has (maybe) six weeks to live. I have to call, but I have to prepare what I'm going to say. Six weeks may come sooner than we expect.

Sunday passed. Monday did the same. On Tuesday I wrote a short letter to Paul and shopped for a card. Hallmark makes cards for every possible occasion; however, I did not see a "my friend is dying" card. I found a "I'm thinking of you" card. It was true that I was thinking of him, but it still did not seem appropriate. But it would have to do.

I never got up the courage to call. I took the coward's way out, placing my letter inside the card and mailing it on Wednesday. I promised myself that I would call him.

Last night, on Thursday, thanks to Charlie, I verbally told my friend that I cared about him. It wasn't enough. It does not matter how I feel. I can't imagine how he feels. Is he in pain? Is he crying? What is he thinking about?

One of Paul's goals was to run 1,000 marathons in his lifetime. I copied the above picture from the Across the Years 72/48/24-Hour website. In 2006, when he ran 183.305 miles in 72 hours, his biography on the website said that he was scheduled to hit 1,000 marathons in 2009. Has he achieved that goal? Does he think about that? Does it matter to him at this point?

I am sad for my running buddy. Below is the short letter that I included in his card. I still don't know what to say to him. But I will run for my friend on Saturday because he can't run for himself. It's not enough, but it will have to do.


I don’t think we’ve run any of the same races this year. I was expecting to see you at the Viaduct Trail 100 Miler in Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago. I called Charlie to let him know that I had again DNF’d another 100 miler, but more so, to tell him that you were not there.

The last time I saw you was at the Mother Road 2. You had given me an extra pair of gloves and a jacket to keep me warm towards the end of the race. I wasn’t moving fast enough to stay warm, but I finished. You had cried at the table where we were all gathered to eat breakfast. Some of us had finished, and some of us had a bad day at the office of our choice. I’ve thought back to that day often and wondered what made you cry on such a wonderful occasion.

Charlie had told me that you had lost a lot of weight. He’s so small, I thought, that he can’t afford to lose even a pound. But I figured you were running doubles and 100 milers with fervor, and that kind of schedule just takes it’s toll on one’s body.

Imagine my anguish when Charlie sent me a forwarded e-mail that he received saying that you were in a hospice with liver cancer. I am speechless. I am so sorry, Paul. I had no idea that you were sick. Having metastasized breast cancer to the bones, we are sister and brother against this unbearable and horrible disease. I realize that your struggle is a lot worse than mine, and my heart goes out to you. I wish that there was something I could do or say to make it all go away.

You are such a great runner. I always wondered what made you so strong, that you could run all of these long races back-to-back. I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to do it as well as you do. So, to me, it doesn’t make sense that someone like you who is physically and mentally strong should ever have cancer. It’s not fair.

There is no answer for the “why” question. God knows best. I know that you are a believer. Continue to be strong and to have faith.

Take care, my friend.

1 comment:

  1. Angela,

    You are so thoughtful and sweet. I am sure Paul knew you were talking to him and drew energy, comfort and warmth from this.

    It is so hard to see friends and relatives who are no longer expected to live, but obviously with you, Charlie and many others I am sure Paul knows he was cared for by a great many people.

    Hopefully he made it to his 1000th marathon. But if not (or even so) I will dedicate several of my upcoming marathons in his honor.

    Now, how are you doing? Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. You have no idea how much it meant to me that you & several others hung out with my mom at Rocky Raccoon last Feb. I know you made her feel welcome. Runners are such a supportive and encouraging group and I sure know I am blessed to have so many current, former and runner at heart friends including you!