Dearest Rachel –
From the very first moment this trip was planned, where the team would run from church to camp, I had no idea whether I would be able to stand here. Once I was here, however, it seemed inappropriate for me not to come here.
There’s no indication from the way things look now as to what happened, now nearly ten months ago. I’m pretty sure there was a line of trees on this side of the toboggan run, one or several of which you must’ve struck. They’re all gone now.
After lunch, I felt compelled to come out here. I didn’t know how I was going to react; would I be crying out to you? Would I scream at the heavens? Would I simply break down?
They say in that first year, you’re mostly numb. I think that’s as close a description as I can get for how I feel, just standing here.
There’s still a certain unreality about your absence, about what happened, and I have to confess, coming down here standing in the spot where I think you lay, surrounded by first responders and EMTs, this doesn’t change any of that. Standing here give me no additional closure to the events of last January.
And yet, I feel like I had to be here, to be where you were, if only because I didn’t run down to hover over you at the time. Rather, I stood back and let the experts do what they could, as my presence wouldn’t have added anything to their efforts.
In all honesty, I felt a little superfluous this weekend as well. The other two vans we’re driven by other runners; they didn’t really need a non-runner to help with driving. Any one of the others could’ve done what I did. Like with the accident, I wasn’t a participant.
And yet, they still gave me a medal.
I feel like I should be crying as I stand here. This is where it happened, after all. Maybe the fact that I’m trying to talk to you by way of Siri adds a sort of distancing factor that keeps me from any true level of catharsis I might gain from being here. Maybe it’s that I’ve already gone through so much is these last ten months, that there’s really nothing left to add by standing in this spot – or near it, as there’s no real way to remember exactly where you had fallen. Even this struggle to recall exactly where it was is enough to distract me from a truly emotional moment. I don’t know.
But as nothing seems to be happening, I’m coming to the unsatisfying conclusion that I need to head back to where the rest of the group is. Not that they would be looking for me, necessarily; after all the running everybody else has done, they’ll be needing showers and changing that I won’t. They have other things to occupy themselves with why come here too… what? Find your spirit? You’re long since with Jesus. This place doesn’t hold you, and I shouldn’t have expected it to.
I thought, at least, that this would be an act of courage on my part. But I’m not even feeling that as I stand down here. All I can feel is the searing cold in my fingers, and I wish I’d remembered to bring gloves. But if I had, I wouldn’t be able to write to you, either.
As I wander back to the mess hall, several of the group come out; they’re off to the canteen, where each of the runners is to collect a T-shirt as part of the swag for participating in the run. I’m invited to join them, and while I feel I’m no more entitled to this than the medal, I realize it would be inappropriate for me to turn it down flat, either. So I join the group as they drive down there, and accept my shirt along with everybody else.
After some confusion involving getting everyone and their stuff into a single van for the return trip, we’re on our way just as the sky begins to darken. Nothing of concern, weather-wise; just that the sun (that we can’t see because of the cloud cover) is going down. For once, I’m not driving, because Drew apparently gets motion sick when he’s not driving. Fine by me; I manage to fall asleep for long portions of the trip.
When I woke up, we were almost back at church, and someone in the back was offering applause for Drew – and myself – as the drivers (to the mock irritation of Dennis, who, after actually working as a CTA bus driver before retiring, claims he never got applause for doing his job from his customers). I don’t know who mentioned it, but it’s pointed out to me that having me as a third driver allowed for better spacing of the runners, and any case where someone doesn’t have to go from running six or seven miles to driving a van alternately over more than 24 hours straight is a benefit for everyone else. Okay, so maybe I’m not that superfluous, after all.
It’s all gratifying, I suppose, but I just wish I could feel more about all of these things. Right now, I wonder if I’m not just too tired.
Good night, honey; if you’d care to meet me in my dreams, I certainly won’t object. You’ll most likely have plenty of time.