There were several sad stories in the news this week that helped keep perspective in proper alignment. Each concerned people in the prime of their lives, each speaks to the promise and fragility that life presents to us all.
First came word that 31 year-old British army Captain David Seath had become the 11th fatality in the 35 year history of the London Marathon after he collapsed at mile 23, felled by cardiac arrest. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Capt. Seath was running London last Sunday to raise funds for Help For Heroes to assist fellow Afghanistan vets.
Then we read where two-time U.S. high jump Olympian Jamie Nieto, 39, slipped while doing a back flip during a coaching session, missed the landing, and had to be airlifted to hospital to undergo surgery to relieve compression to his spine. Still recovering, the universally well liked Olympian remains partially paralyzed.
Finally, closer to home, we were saddened to hear that Tori Hendrix, wife of our friend and old Elite Racing TV family member Austin, had succumbed to cancer at age 37, leaving behind two young ones and a life nowhere near where its end should have been.
Each of these stories begs the question, what mean the struggles if the battles go unnamed? Do we comprehend such purposes in life, or is purpose no more than a counter-puncher’s resolve? I wish I knew. But my scope is not that wide.
It is often said that the marathon is an apt metaphor for life, for there is great joy and exhilaration as well as deep disappointment and despair to be found in both. And while life will most assuredly see us pass through both portals many times over, sometimes the marathon can encompass all within the course of a single event, even a single mile.
And perhaps that is its truest gift, for notwithstanding all the rewards to be discovered in its challenges, it is through its metaphoric use that we learn to temper our highs with humility and assuage our lows with hope, while in the between fight as we can from the wellsprings of preparation, effort and faith.
As the clock progresses from our starts to our finishes we find ourselves being simultaneously reminded of what once was, given a glimpse into what may be, while being carried along the perpetual now that passes as soon as it is considered.
That I perceive others to be upon the righteous path, or that others may think me to be so directed, is enough to acknowledge the possibility of either being true. I suspect no man feels certain in such stark terms, for it is always left to others to remind us of our blessings, even as it falls to us to be aware of, then overcome our shortfalls.
We never know how it all shakes out until the thing is done. But even if we did, would the reality of wishes not coming true somehow disappoint less than their absence in the first place? Which, then, is greater, the wish or the fulfillment?
We live as we can, being as we are. That life in this time of dislocation and the nihilist’s embrace is valued by anyone, for whatever reason, seems to me to be enough. For it is never it within the thing itself, but in the naming that judgment is finally made.
Our thoughts and prayers, such as they are, go out to Austin, Jamie, and Captain Seath’s family and friends. What they are currently going through can no longer be assuaged by simple metaphors, no matter how powerful or apt in other times.