Last November 2010 my uncle Robert passed away, ending a five year battle with Melanoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I say it ended and not that he lost because he didn’t lose. I like to think that faced with overwhelming odds; he made a strategic decision to recon heaven. He fought as hard as he could and faced his end like the man I wish I could be. Just two days before he went, I asked him how he felt. He replied simply that it sucked and he was tired of waiting. I know that he was afraid of what was about to come, but also excited to be moving on to something new and unexplored. He saw so much in life as a challenge and a new way to test himself. I think that his one real regret was only that he had to leave us all behind and felt that he was checking out early before he’d finished the job he’d been made to do here on earth.
My uncle was a man’s man. He served in the Marines during Vietnam, rode a Harley even when it was snowing outside, drank beer, cussed like a sailor, and loved his wife and son. He was a tough guy and growing up I idolized him. During my father’s many “adventures” and absences it was my uncles and grandfather that accepted the challenge and responsibility of showing my brother and I what men were supposed to be. He never lost touch with me, always inspired me, and supported my dream of being a Marine myself. I know that he would not just be proud of what I am doing but happy for me, excited to see me beginning this adventure, and if I asked he would gladly come along grinning from ear to ear the whole way.
Days like these I also think about my mother who passed away in 2007. She had known about the aneurysm growing in her brain for several months before it ruptured that cold night in November and killed her. She had been diagnosed with MS just a year before and I think in a way she had decided not to acknowledge it or let it change her life. If anything it gave her courage and the motivation to start living fully again. After 20 years of a loveless and unfaithful marriage she finally told my step-father to get out. She took a vacation and spent it with the grand-kids she’d barely seen. She went and saw friends she had not seen in years and finalized her plans to move back out west where the snow was and her happy memories awaited. The farthest she ever came to realizing these dreams was in her mind and it breaks my heart.
I know that so much of how I have lived the last few years, the changes I made are because of her. She never stopped believing in me or hoping for my happiness and even on her deathbed the lessons never stopped. Life is short and the time we lose in waiting we can never get back; go live your life and put your happiness first. I struggle each day to build a better version of the man I want to be, the man she believed I could be. I strive to be the man she would have been proud of and deserved. As a child I was often ungrateful, inconsiderate, and quick to criticize my mother. I did not see the sacrifices she made, or the nights filled with tears and loneliness. She hid them from us, never complaining, never faltering, and never giving up. She was determined that her kids would grow up strong and good despite the odds and in spite of the conditions. I hope she can see me now. Mom this man I am you gave birth to.
Leaving the Marine Corps for good was one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever done. They were and are my brothers. We shared things I cannot describe to you, moments that have joined us together for all time. I have never been so close to a group of guys before or since. I have never shared hurts and triumphs like those we found. I know that those that we buried in the sand would love to be here today with me doing this; training and running in the Spartan Races. I know that those that are still in, standing guard over the rest of us watching our backs while we play and run after our dreams would love nothing more than to be here at home with all of us. Many would give anything to run with me in April and some have given everything so that I can.
All too often we forget how lucky we are, how privileged and blessed. There are people who wish they could do what we do. They wish they could go running, lift weights, and hike through the woods. The kids in the hospitals slowly dying will never know the feeling of the wind in their face and the ground rushing by beneath their feet. Just as the veteran staring out the window, waiting for his leg to heal wishes that he could be out there; with his friends. The uncles, mothers, friends, and family waiting up above wish they could be here with us to tell us of their pride and happiness. So many people want to do what we do every day. Yet how often do we treat it like a chore? How many times have we gone in to our workouts like it was torture?
I have my moments make no mistake but lately when it hurts and I want to quit; I think about those that came before me. I think about those that are no longer here and those that wish they were. I think about those that believed in me and saw years before I ever was, the man I would grow to be. So I push on, a few more steps, miles, and minutes. I give my heart and soul to this because the people I’m trying to impress aren’t on the field or in the race; they’re the ones that can’t. I miss you all.