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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Crumb

Bear With Me

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you.

You have to go to them sometimes.” - A.A. Milne

I think a lot of us struggle to know what we need when we're grieving. All we really know is that whatever is happening is not what we want to be happening, but that's about the extent of it. The day that Megan died I drove myself home, fielded a billion phone calls, cried a trillion tears, and to every one of my friends who offered to stop by I firmly said no thanks.

Enter Katherine and Joe. Joe I've known for nigh on four decades at this point in my life and Katherine is nearing a baker's dozen of years. For many years in Seattle the three of us were inseparable - we ran our first marathons together, backpacked our first woods, biked (some of us) our first centuries, and celebrated the biggest and smallest of wins with a hearty meal at Bizarro Cafe. Sometimes all we were celebrating was the pure joy of being friends.

On that terrible day in March after I learned about Megan's death, despite my statements to the contrary, Katherine and Joe showed up that night on my front porch bearing flowers and orange juice. They said they didn't have to stay, they didn't even have to talk, they just wanted to see me and hug me. Turns out they knew what I needed far more than I did myself. After that, as the days progressed and I handled all the logistics that come along with death, I leaned on them quite a bit. Joe took on the task of informing all the other people in my life about what was going on; he wrote quite possibly the kindest, most compassionate email I have ever read and to this day I will occasionally re-read so I can experience its impact again. Katherine wandered from store to store with me, helping me find a shitty black dress I could wear to the memorial, handling the pushy Nordstrom sales lady for me and redirecting us to a store that's not so hands-on. Both of them listened to me practice my eulogy. Yet another first; one that none of us needed to share, let alone experience, but in a way we did.

When I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2017, Katherine and Joe were there with me for nearly every step. And I mean that almost literally - they followed my running tracker and found me at varying mile markers. When I was feeling particularly despondent (as it was not a good race for a number of reasons), they hopped on into the race with me and jogged for a few blocks. They cheered me on, brought support animals, encouraged me and reminded me why I was there. When it was all done, we ate some serious deep dish pizza (an obsession that would then last long beyond this trip to Chicago).

It's not really even possible for me to put into words what Katherine and Joe's friendship has meant to me or how grateful I am for it. We are all a product of the people we surround ourselves with and I am delighted to say that means my spirit is in part formed by each of their friendships. Even though life has separated us all geographically at this point, that has barely changed our circumstances. Before I signed back up for the Chicago marathon last fall, my first call (text) was to them: would they join me in the Windy City again? An overwhelming yes was the response. I couldn't do it without them in 2017 and I wouldn't do it without them in 2023. Chicago redux - and hopefully some more life-changing sushi - here we come.

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