Today was the first long run for my next race, October's Marine Corp Marathon. It's not newsworthy. As far as long runs go, this one was short. 5 miles. But this was my first run as a member of a team. I usually train and fundraise for marathons alone. Today, although I ran solo, there are a few others in different parts of the world who are training with me in spirit because we all heard the same news, we all felt helpless and we all want to do something about it.
I feel like it all happened on the same day, getting word that our High School reunion was nigh and that our classmate Kea had died. It couldn’t have. The Facebook posts are dated on completely different days, maybe weeks apart. But in my mind, they happened simultaneously.
I wasn’t close with Kea in school. She was bubbly and beautiful. Kind and vivacious. I was not, as cranky teenage introverts tend to be just the opposite. But it was clear to me that she was a one of those rare, undoubtably good souls who you can't help but like.
As it happens when we grow older and less curmudgeonly, we open ourselves to relationships once impossible as young ones. We have Facebook. We get to see pictures of each other without actually interacting while somehow feeling we've connected. I came to know that Kea now had a gorgeous family. She lived in Greece. She was still equally blonde and beautiful. Her smile promised that all the good-natured sweetness she possessed at Washington-Lee High School had relocated with her from the Atlantic to the Aegean Sea.
I barely knew this woman but the shock and sadness of her loss gutted me. I didn’t have to imagine how it affected those who were closest to her because their grief was pouring onto our shared timeline on Facebook. Memories and photos. Evidence that what I had perceived, that Kea was indeed pretty damn great, was piling up post after post
What really hit home was that we had a reunion coming up and that girl who graduated 20+ years ago, with that sunshine smile and generous spirit, she couldn’t have imagined that she’d never see her 25th high school reunion. Her children, who lost their mother so damn young, not only will they have to grow up without her, but that very thought, that their genetic map might shorten an otherwise happy life will likely cloud most visions of their future. This in particular really pissed me off.
I run marathons in memory of my mother who was taken by cancer too young. But I was a grown woman, married and settled into a busy life all my own when I sat on the edge of her bed while she slipped away. I’m so damn angry about Kea, that she died of breast cancer at 42. I’m filled with rage for her young family and her friends.
So my classmate and fellow marathoner, Rebecca Pettinelli and I banded together to form Team Kea to raise money for cancer research in her memory. Our fundraising page is brand spanking new and bare bones. Since there are so many of you who loved her, I’m leaving it to you guys who knew her best to saturate the page with pictures and memories. If you’re running the Marine Marathon this October and would like to join Team Kea to help us raise money, give me a shout and I’ll add you to the team roster. Even if you aren’t running but you loved Kea, I encourage you to join the team and help spread the word.
For the rest of you, if you can, I ask that you donate in memory of Kea. Click HERE to make a secure donation to Cancer Research Institute.