Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Life and Death

Sunday we lost a friend and colleague in the triathlon community, Jon "Blazeman" Blais became ALS's latest victim. Jon woke an entire community to the raveges of ALS in hopes to get dollars flowing into research and treatment for future ALS patients. As I said in earlier blogs, I met Jon and his family in Kona in 2005 and from there my friends and I started the ALS Spin-a-thon which is now run by the Blazeman Foundation. I volunteer locally with the ALS Les Turner Foundation here in Chicago.

I had several e-mails to me expressing condollances which I appreciate. What many of you don't know is that I'm actually quite religious, I just don't wear my religion on my "sleeve". As this is not a religion blog but a triathlon blog, I'll spare you my philosophy and theology. I'll sum it up in my final paragraphs on this subject.

I feel that all reasonably good people end up in heaven. At my grandparents funerals (one grandmother left - and she's tough as nails) I wore my "Easter" tie as a celebration of their life. I miss them all terribly, but they would want me to remember all our laughing and fun we had over the years they were here and "get on with it." They would want me to do great things. Adventures they could only dream about and some (like Ironman) that they just sat back and said, "Wow! I can't even imagine what that felt like Bobby." The reason we are here in the USA is because my great grandparents left the troubles of early 20th century Europe and they wanted us to have more opportunity than they had. We still keep the old traditions alive. I started making ravioli by hand (1,000+) every year before Christmas. First with my grandfather's sister (Aunt Dee) and my grandmother, then with my mother and Grandmother and now with my mom, aunt, wife, sister-in-law and brother. In the later years, my grandmother would just smile and shake her head as my aunt and mother would make their annual mess with the flour. It is a ton of work but ravioli never tasted so good. Richer or poorer didn't make a difference, we enjoyed each other in the now.

Daily, I can hear my grandparents voices in my head guiding me as if they are with me. I love to get my wife to laughing so hard she starts crying, snorting, and turning red (at least twice a day) this is how life is LIVED. She usually returns the favor and we try to get each other laughing harder in a little daily family competition. All the while...I vividly remember my grandmother telling me how much she liked Lorrie. "Oh, Bobby! I really like her! She is such a nice young lady!" For extra emphisis grandma grabbed my elbow, giving it a little tug. Her wide smile and sparkling eyes said it all already. I'm not sad they are dead because they are "home". I do miss them because I would like to make ravioli again with grandma or go fishing and enjoy a beer with my grandfather one more time. Their time here has passed on Earth and it is my time to apply what they taught me.

Jon lived his life and his efforts will echo for many years. I salute the courage he had to fight in the darkness of the lava fields knowing that if he could finish the greatest race on Earth, The Ironman World Championship in Kona, that the face of ALS would be changed forever. It has forever been changed Jon. You awoke a sleeping giant in the participants of Ironman to ALS. One of our last times together, Clearwater, Florida and the 70.3 World Championship...we drank a Captain and Coke after the race and said, "Look at what a bunch of regular guys have done! We don't have any big sponsors. We aren't Lance Armstrong. Yet here we are."

So I raise my water bottle today, and salute those who lived and have gone before me. I'll see you again some day. Here is to living, now and hereafter.

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