‘When a Twitter Message Isn’t Enough…’
She’s lost her daughter.
However which way you say it, using as many euphemisms as you like to make it sound less gut-wrenchingly desperate – it isn’t. It doesn’t get any worse than that.
It just doesn’t.
I don’t know that pain. I can’t possibly know it. But I have a heart, and I have a daughter, and the two together can paint a picture of a kind of horror that I can’t even allow myself to comprehend.
And she smiles. She still smiles. I think about that and I wonder how. I wonder where she goes to find that smile. Some days, she must have to dig so deep to locate that smile, it must feel like she’s burrowing with bare hands right through to the burning centre of the earth. And it doesn’t even look like just a feigned, painted-on smile either. How does she do that? I just don’t know.
She emails me, and the email is titled “A Twitter message isn’t long enough.” I read it, and it stops me in my tracks. I actually reply with a message saying, “I’m going to have to process this, Cheryl, because there’s so much I want to say, and I don’t know what that is just now.” Is that the email equivalent of speechless? There may well be a text message emoji to reflect the same – I don’t know. I WAS speechless.
On Sunday, she ran the Blackpool half marathon. We were there, and let me tell you, NO part of that race looked easy. The weather felt to be battling with itself – the wind clashed with the waves, which battered the shoreline, and barraged its way inland. It looked – and felt – like they were all in the midst of a huge domestic, where no one was willing to back down.
I’ve done that race myself before, and it feels like running on a travelator whilst being sandblasted from six inches away. For 13.1 miles. Of all the half marathons that love to boast about their “ great PB potential” – this is not one. It’s a feat of endurance. Literally, to endure it and to get to the end is a mission in itself.
And so back to the email. This is the part that did actually stop me in my tracks. (I have sent this to Cheryl for her permission to ‘cut & paste’ it before this goes live.)
“I’m not exactly sure where it happened, but somewhere in Blackpool I found this part of me that knows she’ll never give up on this.
I plodded along thinking about my little running journey that stopped for a holiday to have two children. I realised I needed to be a kinder to myself about what I’m doing. I’m so hard on myself. I need to remember that I may have been quicker, thinner and in general fitter before (only just mind but still!) But since then my body has grown 2 children, had 2 c-sections and the recovery that comes with all of that. I only started running again in January. And in with all this we lost Edie and have to live with that everyday. If I was hearing about someone else doing this I’d be telling them how amazing it is that they can do it.”
What do I say to that? How do I tell her that it’s impressive enough that she can SMILE again, let alone put herself in the midst of the wildest, bleakest half-marathon in the North West. How do I say to her that if it took her a WEEK to complete the course, that it’s STILL faster than I could run it in, because I’d be struggling to find the strength to fasten my laces, let alone anything else?
And then, SHE THANKS ME! For what? What on earth do I do with that? How do I tell her that – in one sentence – she has made me realise how utterly silly and pathetic and unnecessary my malaise about my calf injury and missing out on the London Marathon is? And most other things I ‘worry’ about..
We see her after the race. I hug her, and I say, “let’s see your medal then, Cheryl!” She beams and shows her newly acquired bling to our girls. She’s still bloody smiling!
I keep the conversation light. But I know what this means to her. It symbolises her inner strength. That medal shows her just what she can do – what she can achieve – in the most atrocious, nauseating, and heart-breaking of circumstances.
And yet, she says thank you to me. Finally, once my heart has fallen on to the floor and I’ve picked it back up again, there is ONE SENTENCE that I can reply to:
“And those bloody gels. I had one in Blackpool for the first time ever and it made me feel a bit sick. Will I get used to these?”
“No. They’re shit. It’s a means to an end, but I’m sure you’ve swallowed worse: I know I have ;-)”
*Cheryl, for so, so many reasons, you are – and will continue to be – my hero.
Cheryl and her husband, Tom, will be running in a number of races throughout this year, cumulating in the Yorkshire Marathon, where we will be joining them to raise funds for the charity Edinburgh Sick Kids in memory of their daughter, Edie.
PLEASE help them to help other families. #FlyHighEdie #EdinburghSickKids @EdinSickKids