30th Birthday

For the past 11 birthdays, I have had mixed emotions.

I’ve always felt a little sad, a little guilty.

Some people don’t like their birthday because they don’t like the attention, or the fact that they are aging.

For the past 11 years, I haven’t liked it because it means I am getting “further away” from Natalie.

I spent my 30th birthday earlier this month busy at work and then flying on an airplane with my BFF to Disneyland. I didn’t let myself stop and think about my sad association with birthdays for fear that I would get sad at the happiest place on earth.

But, today, I do.

Today is Natalie’s birthday. She would have turned 30 years old. But, I instead only have memories of a near-19-year-old. (Yes, she was only 18 when she passed away).

Sometimes I wish I even had videos of those memories. Because, as time passes, memories can change and even fade. I don’t want them to though.

I want to hold on to them for as long as possible.

Happy birthday, Natalia.

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10 years of time, remembering, grieving, celebrating

Two days ago marked exactly 10 years since Natalie’s passing.

It’s weird to read those words: 10 years since Natalie’s passing.

One entire decade has passed since I last had someone in my life. And not just “someone,” but a dear friend. 

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Each year I think it will get easier.

I don’t know if it has.

It gets tougher for different reasons.

Do I still remember exactly what her voice sounded like?

Am I still recalling events that happened with her exactly as they happened?

Because, that’s the thing with events — even important ones — they become memories that eventually fade.

And that makes me feel uncomfortable.

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But, what I do know is that if it weren’t for Natalie, I wouldn’t be running marathons. And, running marathons has been the greatest gift I have given myself in my adult life. So, I have her to thank. She is helping me grow even though she is not physically present with me.

I still look in the direction of her house when I drive down her street. It doesn’t happen often that I drive down this street but when I do, I never hesitate to look. I don’t know what I’m expecting since her parents have long moved from this house. To me, it’ll always be Natalie’s house.

Today on my run home, I ran part of Green Lake and I glanced at that big grassy area across from the trail near Lower Woodland to see if I might find a bunny hopping around. Natalie and I would always go to that grassy area to chase after the rabbits, and take photos of them. The rabbits have been gone for years but I always look across the street for them.

I’m at a good place in life right now. But, this time of year is never easy.

That just goes to show what a wonderful person Natalie was.

A part of me will never stop missing you.

That crying girl on the bus

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This is a photo taken on a sunny California day exactly two years ago from yesterday.

I wish I could say my family came together that day for a happy reason. It was quite the opposite.

But, I’ll get to that in a little bit.

****

Last week I was riding the bus to work in the morning, like I do every morning. The bus was crowded for a Friday. Passengers were standing and being packed into the #66 headed to downtown Seattle. Half-way through my ride I noticed someone sniffling loudly. I looked up from my phone and saw a young woman crying.

The reason I was keen to figure out who the sniffler was, was because I wanted to stay as far away as possible and not catch any germs. I already banked in my one cold of the year at the beginning of the month!

She looked to be about my age, maybe a few years younger, or one or two older. I didn’t recognize her as a regular rider. (You know, the same people you see on your bus day in and day out?) But, she caught my attention because as she sniffled, she had streams of tears rolling down her cheeks.

Like I said, the bus was packed so there was a man sitting next to her, and two people directly across from her. I was one “row” behind her but I had direct view of her face because she was seated in that middle “accordion” section of the bus where the seats face inward.

She had her iPhone glued to her ear as whoever was on the other end was breaking the sad news to her. It had to be sad news. Every so often she tried to blot her eyes with her sleeve. She actually wasn’t making too much noise. She wasn’t talking much and when she did talk, it was very soft and mumbled. I couldn’t hear what she had to say.

A part of me wanted to not stare. But, a part of me was also transfixed on this situation.

I started to become very sad.

Not many people cry publicly on a bus.

And, if it was some unreasonable angry situation, you would be yelling back over the phone; not be sitting quietly.

This scenario was all too familiar to me.

I’ve been that crying girl on the bus.

About a month before that quick visit to California — yes, the one where that photo above was taken — I received a call while riding the bus to work.

My dad called to tell me that my uncle had died. He had committed suicide. I felt like I was having one of those moments when life isn’t real. When you are having a nightmare and are just waiting to wake up.

Our beloved family member, who we had no idea was in need of help, had left us.

That sunny beach in California is where we had all gathered for his memorial service.

Feelings of disbelief and shock and deep sadness came rolling back to me as I looked on at this stranger who was crying on the bus. I had to stop starring for fear that I was going to start crying right then and there myself.

And, maybe her situation was nothing.

But, people do not cry over nothing on the bus.

I wanted to walk over and give her a hug, or at the very least a tissue.

Be kind to those around you. Make sure your loved ones truly know that they are loved. Tell others how you feel. If you know of someone in need of help, be there to help and support him or her.

And, if you ever see a girl (or guy) crying on the bus, be nice.

 

Dear Natalie

Dear Natalie,

I can’t believe it’s been nine years.

Nine entire years that I have been living and breathing and running and having fun — all without you.

I always dread this day, May 2nd. I’ve been so busy lately that I almost forgot. But, I don’t think I ever could. Yesterday when I realized that it was officially May, I knew right away what the next day would mean. I suddenly had a knot in my stomach and my eyes began to water as I drove to work.

I know you don’t want us to wallow and be sad. I know that I have to move on.

Never did I imagine that the mourning process would continue on like this. They say when a loved one passes, it gets easier as the years go by. I still don’t quite understand this concept.

I’m doing the Eugene Marathon next weekend and Joanna will be doing Ragnar Cape Cod. I know you’ll be our biggest remote cheerleader. We also have big marathon plans for next year, which we’ll let you know about when we have it all figured out.

Thank you for always being such a great friend.

I miss you.

Mucho love,

Kristin

Birthdays can be hard

Birthdays were great as a kid. You got to have a party where you were the center of attention. There were cake and presents and all of your friends were there to celebrate with you.

And, as you got older there were milestones.

My golden birthday at age 8 because I was born on the 8th. Ten because you’re finally in the double digits. Thirteen because you’re finally a teenager. Sixteen because you can get your license (to drive). Eighteen because you can vote and are considered a legal adult in the eyes of America. Twenty-one because you get to have 21-runs.

But then as you get even older, birthdays become less exciting. There are no more milestones, just another year to add to your age to remind you that you are old(er). I mean, there is that whole being able to rent a car at age 25 for a “decent price” but that’s not as cool as voting or drinking alcohol, right?

This doesn’t bother some people, the whole getting older thing. Those people continue to throw parties and enjoy “their day.”

I haven’t really looked forward to getting older since 18. Every year after that has been one more year. One more year “away” from Natalie.

Sometimes when I think about it, during the weeks and days that lead up to my birthday, it makes me very sad and a little mad.

I’m getting older but she remains 18 … at least in my mind, anyway.

The more time that passes, the more disconnected I feel from her.

And I know it shouldn’t. Because, nothing has changed. Or, everything has …

All I can do in this moment is listen to U2 and think of her.

And, rather than dwell in my sadness, just walk on.

Because even though birthdays can be hard.

They can also be a celebration. So, I will do my best to be happy and celebrate as I know best — by racing a 5K on Sunday.

The second of May

Some dates you just never forget.

Tomorrow will be exactly eight years since Natalie died.

Ironically, it is also the birthday of Sarah, who passed away about six years ago.

Natalie, a childhood friend. Sarah, a teammate and college friend.

Two lives cut way too short.

And, it still brings me to tears.

I won’t be in Seattle chasing bunnies at Green Lake with you. I won’t be in Seattle playing ultimate with you.

Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the marriage of two good friends in sunny California.

I will be thinking of you both.

And I know you both will be dancing with all of us.

Making sense of the unthinkable

“I did not know them, but I still feel such a sense of loss.”

My coworker walked back into the office, we were done with clinic and she had stepped out briefly to get some tea from the cafeteria.

“There’s been a shooting in Roosevelt,” she said to me immediately. The TV in the waiting room had been turned to the breaking news as patients watched the images of police cars outside of a cafe.

I’ve been to that exact place where the shooting occurred. One of my best friends lives across the street. A few of my other friends used to live a few doors down and would frequent the location.

And, not only did the shooter kill four — and injure one — at the cafe, he also killed a woman downtown after fleeing the Roosevelt scene. My brother’s alma mater, Roosevelt High School, was on lockdown.

The woman downtown was a mother of two. That could have been your mother. That could have been my mother.

The people at the cafe, those could have been your acquaintances, your friends. They could have been my friends.

In one of the online message boards for one of the news stories on the events, a reader wrote, “I did not know them, but I still feel such a sense of loss.” This person was referring to the victims.

My heart is heavy. I’ve been reading all the stories about the killer and the victims and that day’s series of horrible events to make sense of it all. But, there’s no making sense of it. Five innocent people were killed.

Our wonderful city of Seattle now has a total of 21 homicides for the year 2012. — a record number. What kind of record is that? What is happening?

I read the story about the Good Samaritan who rushed to the female driver who was shot downtown. This bystander saw a stranger get shot and instead of running away or fleeing for her own safety, she and another woman went to help. They told the mother of two that help was on the way, one of them began chest compressions.

The Good Samaritan said that mainly she rushed over to be by the woman’s side because she didn’t want her to die alone. She knew she belonged to someone, that she had family and friends, and that those people wouldn’t want her dying alone. That makes sense.

“I did not know them, but I still feel such a sense of loss.”

[All of my factual details came from the Seattle Times online. Yes, that is an attempt at citing my source. Once a journalist, always thinking like a journalist?]