Just a little heads-up that this post is a bit of a departure from what you’d typically find here – I won’t apologize for that, but don’t worry, friends – we will get back to all of the endorphins soon. Thanks for taking the time to read this story!
I stared into the bottom of my freshly-emptied martini glass, then said to Steve, “Who will bring Betty her coffee now?” I burst into tears, and when Steve moved in to comfort me, I sobbed even harder.
So many of us have stories of how cancer has torn lives apart, stolen away good people long before their time, left so much life unlived, so many words unsaid. This is one of those stories – of a really awesome man named Joe who would never see his youngest graduate from high school, or see his kids get married. One of those really good people, that simply spending time with him made you feel all the more enriched for having done so.
But by the time I made it to the bottom of that drink, I suddenly wasn’t crying for him so much as for his wife, Betty. You see, they were soulmates. Together for as long as anyone could remember, and still so in love, best friends after all those years.
I’ve always felt a close bond and real fondness for this couple, both because they’re such great people, and because I always saw them as the future for Steve and me.
Every morning, Joe would get up and would put the coffee on before getting ready for work. Having to leave the house long before she did, he would come back upstairs after breakfast to kiss her goodbye, and bring a cup of coffee for her to enjoy in bed before the chaos of the day began.
And now there would be no more coffee. I was watching my worst nightmare unfold in some else’s life.
When we went to the funeral home earlier that afternoon, we, and everyone else, did what people do at funeral homes – offer some words that just don’t quite say what you want to say to a family trying to stay strong while standing amid the rubble of their freshly destroyed lives.
When we left, I said what we all say, with all of the sheepish futility of holding an umbrella out to someone whose entire town has just been washed away by a tsunami: “If there’s anything I can do…”
Betty was surrounded by loved ones, and while I had no doubt that she was grateful for that, I also knew that in a big way, she was alone. She was on the brink of a new reality where she had to face each day without Joe by her side.
And so I clung to Steve, my best friend and soulmate, as I sobbed for my dear friend who had to find a way to go on without hers.
I know that there are some things running can’t fix – at least not in an instant – and this is one of them.
It can bring us together as a community and unite us against our common enemy.
It can give us events around which to raise funds.
So this year I am running the Terry Fox Run, as part of the team The Joe Cools, not so much for Terry and his amazing legacy, but for all of those other reasons. For my guilt, anger, and pain; for this family that has found themselves one member short.
And especially for my dear friend Betty.
So hey, I know everyone is fundraising at this time of year, but if you have a couple of bucks you can throw my way, please click here to donate. Or if you want to get involved yourself, visit the Terry Fox Foundation website to find the Run near you!