Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking back on my journey with Team in Training and what an amazing, happy, sad, hysterical, challenging experience it has been. Ten years!
Remembering brought me to the essentially the theme for this week. How each of us and those who touch our lives are threads in the vast tapestry that is Team in Training. One made ever more beautiful and strong because we came. I can’t take credit for the tapestry vision that came from Bonni Brooks several years ago. Imagine the moment when I joined the team for a practice and while at the water stop a teammate pointed at a poster hanging by the trail and commented on how funny the cartoon was, I chuckled and said, “Thank you, I do those in memory of my husband.” Then was …stunned… when she said she hadn’t know there was a real person who inspired those. In a way it felt like losing Bill all over again. Bonni later took the time to gently explain how the stories of people like Bill and so many Honored Teammates who lose their battles become part of a tapestry. Those who come to the team and stay just a season may add a thread to that tapestry but they seldom see the whole thing. Those that come and stay season after season slowly hear more and more of the stories, they learn the history and more fully see the tapestry. I find comfort in that.
Every season with TNT I see new bits woven in and hear stories that stay with me forever. Each strengthens me and reminds me both how far we have come and how far we still have to go, each thread is essential and valuable. In talking to our teammate Richard B. about the person he is running in memory of he shared this;
“Mine is not a terribly connected story. I did not know Alan at any point. My wife and I were on our way to visit my daughter and grandkids in CA, and struck up a brief conversation with a nice lady on the first leg, St Louis to Vegas. A week later, we were returning to St. Louis, through Vegas, and saw her again in the Vegas airport. When we struck up another conversation, noting the coincidence, we learned that her husband, Alan, had died of a form of leukemia. I mentioned that I run for TNT, and she said her son rode in a couple of TNT events, both before and after her husband had died. If I remember correctly, Alan may have ridden for TNT as well. (As an aside, she mentioned that her son insisted on riding Alan’s bike (not a particularly good bike for the intended purpose) for the first TNT ride he did after Alan died, just because it was for him, but he rode different bikes thereafter.)
In any event, I asked if she would mind if I mentioned Alan as an honored teammate in future runs, and she was delighted…
So, anyway, I don’t have a close personal connection with the family or a meaningful story to tell about his life and times… I just liked the fact that his son did TNT events for him, his wife knew of TNT and I could make the family feel good about honoring her husband in future TNT events and raising money to help a cause near to their hearts.”
So Richard along with Alan and his family become part of the tapestry of our team. Like the long ago woman in the Seattle airport as I was returning from my first TNT event. I was exhausted and frankly in no mood to face flight cancellations much less a long wait near a screaming two year old. When I just couldn’t take it any more I pulled out the little TNT beanie bear I’d bought while at my event and offered it to the little boy’s mother for him to play with while we waited. Honestly my only motivation was the selfish desire for quiet. She very quietly thanked me and apologized saying that he’d just gotten his chemo and the drugs gave him horrible migraines that always left him screaming. Then proceeded to tell me how important TNT and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had been to her. That moment put the whole season in perspective, it is both part of the TNT tapestry and part of my own. A chance encounter in an airport, for myself, for Richard, for others I’m sure. With an estimated 1,129,813 people in the US living with (or in remission from) a blood cancer there are stories all around us that just haven’t been shared yet.
Where will you find yours? Or have you found it already and perhaps think you don’t know enough about the person to share? Do it anyway! No matter how briefly the contact all of those moments serve to inspire the team and remind us why we are here.