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Monday, September 28, 2009


It seems like everyday we look for strength. Some people need strength to get out of bed and go to the job they hate.  Others require strength to tackle a project they've been procrastinating.  And some simply need the physical variety.

Since our loss of Leo (still born in July at 8 months), I've been specifically asking him for strength.  It's as if by virtue of his ephemeral physical presence the power of his absence is vastly amplified.  Rather than a low wattage current running through me, his life is a lighting bolt that has permanently electrified my soul.  I am not religious, but I am spiritual.  I don't ask God for help, answers, or forgiveness.  I had come to believe that if I want any of those things that I must to do something to merit it.  However, since Leo's passing, I now find myself looking to him, and for him to lend me the strength I both desire and need.

My alarm went off at 6am yesterday - a Sunday - a day traditionally meant for rest, for sleeping in.  And while many still were, I had the dawn to myself.  I had 22 miles to run in preparation for my first marathon (The Baystate in Lowell, MA on October 18th).  It was a cool 52 degrees, foggy, rainy.  I drank a cup of hot black coffee, ate a single piece of whole grain toast with strawberry jam and quietly patted the floor as I gathered items for my bipedal trek.  I filled up my water bottles, stashed my Gu packs, and put my MP3 player in a plastic baggy to keep it dry.  In silence, I applied band-aids to my nipples so they wouldn't chafe and bleed.   I applied Glide - a vaseline like roll-on - on my inner thighs and on the soles of my feet to prevent chaffing and blistering (too much information, I realize). I strapped my Garmin Forerunner GPS watch to my wrist and drove the few miles to Putnam, CT.  I'd plotted an 22 mile course down RT. 12 and back, which winds through the formerly prosperous mill towns of Putnam, Killingly, and Danielson.  It roughly parallels the Quinebaug River and the railroad tracks that connect Norwich to Worcester, but upon which few trains still roll.

View 22 miler in a larger map

As I set off through the deserted streets of Putnam south toward the surrounding greener fields, a cool mist lingered low to the ground and nestled next to the hillsides.  A light drizzle fell and with the exception of an occasional car it was just me and the two lane road.

I took in the quietude and let my mind wander.  Soon I felt that Leo was with me.  Or rather, I asked that he join me.  I've taken to spending time with him on these long runs.  I ask him to give me strength, to help me on my journey.  I ask him to come forth from nature - from the mist, from the green (and now red and orange) of the leaves, and from the breeze.  I ask Leo to fill my lungs with oxygen, my legs with power, and my mind with stillness.  It's not a constant conversation, but as my thoughts drift from topic to topic, often too quickly for me to hold on to any for long, he occasionally returns to run alongside.  He'll wander off for a time and then sometimes - like yesterday morning - he slams into my chest like a linebacker.

At mile marker 8.34 (I looked at my Garmin to note it), near the Civil War Statue that welcomes you to Danielson, Leo came directly at me, forcefully, with no warning or discernible precipitation.  The power of his presence was as visceral as the day he came and went and brought me to the precipice of collapse. He brought on powerful tears of grief and caused me to gulp for air.  I continued to run, my breath short, my face contorted.   And I welcomed the sadness that overfilled my heart, pain that while intense somehow provides comfort in at least letting you know you're alive.  The severity didn't last long (.16 miles to be exact), fleeing as quickly as it came, but it was an abrupt reminder that for as 'normal' as most of my days are, the ache of the loss I feel for Leo hasn't substantially dissipated.

When my patience is thin, when I'm anxious or short tempered, when I am aimless and restless I feel certain it's rooted predominantly in my grief.  My sorrow waits inside me, waits and waits, and then pounces fiercely on my unsuspecting consciousness.  Leo, Leo, Leo.  Physically absent and wholly present; sometimes a cause of acute paralysis and at others the source of tremendous strength.  I welcome you in whatever form you choose to appear.


Cyd Weldon said...

I can't speak, just cry. And send love to you & Leo.

corin said...

Nothing I could write would convey how moved I am by this essay. It's beautifully written- I can't even imagine the kind of strength you describe.

Lindsey said...

Dave, this is so beautiful and moving.

BonjourBruxelles said...

I have no words....just thank you for your amazing and beautiful writing.

susan weldon said...

yizkor means to remember and to do deeds of lovingkindness in remembrance of those we have lost.

today on yom kippur, through your beautiful words, you say yizkor for leo. in so doing, you remember and honor him and you honor your loss, your pain and your deep love.

writing as you did today is a deed of lovingkindness to all of us who seek the strength to live with hope and love in the face of incomprehensible pain.

thank you david.

Nick said...

As I shared with Linda...
"I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glint on snow. ...I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. When you run in the morning hush, I am the uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft starlight at night. In all the days to come, this is how you will know I am always with you."

jay shapiro said...

hey dave and linda and max and leo (in spirit): l'shana tova / 5770 --i wept, hugging you all -- sending best wishes for good health, a great run, and contentment in a world at peace.
xoxo j

Polly said...

Leo is a loving presence that we will keep close to our hearts forever. What a beautiful narration and I am so glad that he was with you when you ran though the quiet countryside.