I waddled about the new house, squatting to retrieve a piece of popcorn before it was crushed under foot. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and was beginning to really feel the lack of grace that comes with growing a new person. My husband stepped through the front door, two layers of work out clothes plus a layer of sweat. He was training for a foot race called the Beer and Bagel. Every year they hosted a Squatchy Challenge in which an individual ran a half-ish marathon on Saturday and then the 4.5ish mile race on Sunday. This year he decided to go for it.
I remember looking at his sweat longingly, having been told to reduce my cardio and up my protein to build a bigger baby. Yoga was as intense as it got those days, from 20 weeks on. When that magical Tuesday came, November 3rd, and they said Reece was actually on target for growth due to an improperly labeled due date, I was cleared for the first cardio in 14 weeks.
Hubs ran the half-ish marathon that Saturday morning, proud of his times, and returned to his busy day of military duty. Our son had gymnastics at the YMCA that morning, so I took the opportunity to walk on a treadmill to keep myself limber. I transitioned to a bike and was excited to work up a sweat. I could feel Reece kicking me in protest as I bumped my legs against my belly. That would be the last time I would ever feel him kick.
The weather was warm that day so upon returning from gymnastics, we got the dog and stroller and went for a walk. We popped open the van and got the vacuum cleaner out. I paid bills during nap time. I enjoyed a quiet house. The day was normal.
Hubs called shortly after lunch and shared the excitement of his times. He was racing around the same time I was on the bike. We were sweating in unison! Around 3:45 he came home for the day. I was attempting to sit and drink some water. It occurred to me that I hadn’t felt the little booger kick in a while. He almost always had something to say.
Two hours later, our lives were forever changed. And in the back of it all, the Squatchy Challenge was never finished. Yes, he had run solid times for the longer run and had paid and registered for the shorter race. But life slammed into us so fiercely that weekend. About a month later, as the smoke cleared, Hubs said it out loud.
“I was probably running that half marathon around the time Reece died.”
I nodded but didn’t know what to say. We had been sweating in unison. Hubs considered reaching out to the race coordinator to ask for his finisher’s medal. The coordinator said he would send it.
We waited and waited. Christmas came and went. Nothing. Mid-January our former neighbor contacted us to let us know they were given some of our mail from the new homeowners. The medal had been sent to our old address. She promised to forward it on.
We waited and waited. Valentine’s Day came and went. Nothing. I contacted the post office. The only help they offered was to consider it lost forever.
Gone forever. We knew that concept well. My husband leads a military unit of roughly 40 people. One of those soliders recently ended his own life. The day of his funeral was a long one. One Hubs never wants to experience again. Upon arriving home, he laid flat on the couch, still in his dress uniform, and feel asleep. I corralled the boys outside to keep the house quiet and retrieved the day’s mail.
And there it was. The Squatchy Challenge finisher’s medal in a yellow envelope with tons of scratchy blue pen all over it. The original post mark said December 12th, 2015.
We three gathered around him, woke him, and offered it like a sacred gift. He opened the yellow wrinkled envelope and announced to our young sons, “Now this medal is not to be played with, understood?”
It’s just a race medal. The medal Hubs never had the chance to earn in sweat. A medal he missed because his son was to be born still that day.
He stepped over to Reece’s place on the mantel and laid the medal on top of his blanket. He offered it to Reece like a gift. A dedication. He paused for a minute, sighed, and stepped back. I saw a bit of tension ease in his shoulders.
It floated around in the mail, in bins and buckets and trucks, passed from hand to hand, and back to mail. And here it was, finally, arriving to Hubs on a day when his heart is heavy with fresh grief. Not the day before, or the day after, but the very day.
Perhaps it’s silly to believe in help from Heaven, but it sure makes life a little easier when you do.