A Helicopter Ride Out of the Desert

“Obsession gives you something to do besides having your heart shattered by heart-shattering events. It gives you a helicopter ride out of the desert… In the drama of obsession, you are the star, the costar, the director, the producer.” Geneen Roth

Meditations in Motion


After a long weekend in Richmond, Virginia running one of my favorite races, Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k (more about that in a future post), my husband Bill and I returned to Lititz and headed into town for a short post-race easy run.

When we drove into the rec center to begin our run, the weather was warm, humid, and overcast, the air still. We walked into our respective locker rooms to stow our gym bags and chatted with a few friends.

Upon emerging from the building, we saw Mother Nature had done a complete 180-degree turn, as she often does in spring. The temperature had dropped 15 degrees, the humidity had disappeared, and the wind was howling out of the west.

We set off accompanied by a ferocious tailwind, knowing that on our return, the wind would be in our faces. After flying east, then trudging west, we showered, returned home for breakfast, and watched the Boston Marathon on TV.

Meditations in Motion

Of course, watching the Boston Marathon brought back memories of the time I ran Boston 10 years ago.

I qualified in May of the previous year, after a pivotal time in my life.

Meditations in MotionMy mother and I had always been close; I never went through one of those teenage “I-hate-my-mother” phases. My mom was my sounding board and my champion, someone I admired and counted on.

Mom was a one-of-a-kind woman. Imperious and generous, loving and indomitable, an only child married to a man with 10 siblings, she was a life raft to me at times when I desperately needed something to cling to.

For the last three years of her life, Mom’s independent spirit was diminished by a stroke, her sharp intellect compromised. She lived in a retirement community, which she hated, and gradually moved up through increasing levels of care, fighting each step.

Meditations in Motion

Our roles reversed, it was my time to be Mom’s champion. I visited her every night, gave her a shower and got her ready for bed. We would make frequent “jailbreaks” in the afternoon for a snack and a Bloody Mary at a local watering hole where the owners and staff fussed over Mom.

My oldest son and I fought Mom’s battles with the facility for her, but after hospitalization for pancreatitis, we were left with no choice other than to allow a move to a skilled care unit, the highest level of care, and not a pleasant environment in which to live.

At about the same time Mom moved into the skilled care unit, I contracted the Epstein-Barr virus, not unusual for a teacher in contact with teenagers every day. Instead of resulting in the typical symptoms associated with mononucleosis, the virus attacked my liver, causing hepatitis. I missed a month of school (December) and had to DNS (for my non-running friends, DNS stands for Did Not Start) a planned marathon. Worse, I was unable to visit my mom.

Mom passed away right before Christmas of that year, while I was still laid low by the virus. I returned to school in January after her funeral, still pale and shaky from illness and loss.

Meditations in Motion

The Miami Marathon was on my race schedule for the end of the month, but I had not run one step since Thanksgiving. This was before my husband and I were running partners, in fact, there were few things we did together. Bill vacationed with his golf buddies; I traveled with my running girlfriends. My youngest son, then in his early 20s, planned to accompany me to Miami.

Broken-hearted and alone, feeling more than a little sorry for myself, I began the arduous process of putting in the training miles needed to at least complete the marathon.

As the effects of the virus decreased and I began feeling better, running made me feel like I had a purpose in life once more. My mom was gone, my kids had all left the nest, my husband and I had a distant relationship, but at least running was there for me.

My youngest son and I traveled to Miami together and had a wonderful time. He was (and is) the perfect traveling companion, easy-going, fun-loving, and able to navigate effortlessly. I realized that my son and I could have fun together as two adults, just like my mom and I had. Although he no longer lived at home, he still needed a mom, just like I had needed mine.

I had no illusions about being able to run a fast race, but I was able to finish and feel good with the effort. In the weeks after the Miami Marathon, my training increased dramatically. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say I was obsessed with running.

My training miles passed 50, 60, 70 per week; I did track workouts, tempo runs, long runs of 20 miles or more and a mid-week run of at least 10 miles before school. I researched training plans, workouts, and cross-training; I read obsessively about how to improve.

Meditations in MotionThe best part was when Bill started running with me, not every run, but sometimes. After viewing “The Spirit of the Marathon“, we made it our goal to run a marathon together and signed up for the Richmond Marathon in November. We focused on enriching our mutual social life and began doing things as a couple rather than individually. We discovered that even with our empty nest, we still enjoyed each other’s company.

In May, we traveled to Oregon to visit our middle son. I was registered for the Eugene Marathon, Bill for the half marathon, and our son for the 5k. After a late night concert that included some beers, we stood in the pre-dawn cold together, shivering and anxious to run.

The half and full marathons followed a similar course. I did not plan to run with Bill; my full marathon pace was slower than his half marathon pace, but we started out together.  I kept up with him, however, for the first miles.

After the half marathon split off to head toward the finish line, I planned to slow down, but I was feeling strong and well-trained. I maintained the same pace through mile 17, 20, 23, 24.

At mile 25, I saw Bill waiting along the course. After finishing the half, he had come back to run the final mile of the marathon with me. We ran the final mile together, Bill encouraging me to keep up the pace. He knew a Boston-qualifying time was a good possibility.

I crossed the finish line with two minutes to spare and was immediately enveloped in a group hug with my husband and son. There may have been some tears. Shed by all of us.

Meditations in Motion

My obsession with running has cooled somewhat in the years since I ran Boston, but it remains a positive force in my life. Looking back, I realize that particular spring was a turning point. I formed new, better relationships with my children and husband. I lost my mom, but hope I have gained some of her indomitable spirit.

The confidence, strength, and presence I have gained from running are irreplaceable. Best of all, my one-time obsession gave me “a helicopter ride out of the desert” when I needed it most.


I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, Raisie Bay for Word of the Week, Crystal Twaddell for Fresh Market Friday, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus, Counting My Blessings for Faith ‘n Friends, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, Morgan’s Milieu for Post, Comment, Love, and Lyli Dunbar for Faith on Fire.














  1. This was beautiful in so many ways… you exquisitely capture life’s challenges on the emotional, physical, marital, familial, spiritual level. It’s a poignant story that brought tears to my eyes. I have a friend who she says she and her husband don’t do a lot of things together and I find that so sad. Almost every morning my husband and I walk together at 6:30 AM and if we are apart we talk by phone at 6:30 AM. Things aren’t perfect of course and we’ve had challenges as well, but our deep heart connection has kept us going ! I am so glad I stuck it out, and I’m sure you are too . Life had surprises and helicopter rides for you !! I am so sorry for the illness and suffering and loss you experienced. You are so lucky to have had such an awesome Mother. Your husband and kids also sound like keepers 😄.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your very kind comment, Susan. A long marriage is bound to have some ups and downs, but I enjoy doing things with my hubby more than anyone else. Sounds like you and your husband have a great relationship too. Another one of God’s good blessings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That is quite a story. It’s sad that you were ill and couldn’t be with your mom near the end. I’m glad you and your husband began to spend more time together. John and I didn’t have much time for each other while we were both working. It has been marvelous to have leisurely meals together and to chat while on our morning walk. Companionship is most precious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Anne. My sister, who lives 300 miles away came visited often during my illness. She was able to be with my mom and we all were there for the very end. Isn’t retirement wonderful for a marriage? It’s like the icing on the cake of a long relationship.


  3. Oh that helicopter ride out of the desert came with such an adept writer’s twist! I forgot all About the title as I enjoyed the post – could imagine you on road trip to FL w son – the healing from the virus – and how your hubs joined you that last mile – and all Celebrated – oh and my FIL is in a retirement center so have some knowledge of the levels of care –
    And so cheers to finding what revives is and lifts 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds like running is your saviour, it’s helped you heal both physically and in your relationships. How wonderful it was to hear your husband coming to run the last mile with you. I’m so sorry about the way you lost your Mother though, how very sad. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I can list many, many benefits of running, both mental, emotional, and spiritual, as well as the obvious physical ones. Hubby running the last mile with me was a very special thing. I will never forget it.


  5. Thank you so much for this story! I loved getting to know more of your running story.

    Mine is so very different, but I can relate to your relationship with your mom. I’ve always been close to mine; my brother & sister struggle in their relationship to her (for me, it’s more my relationship to my father) — Maybe by the time I came along, the baby, she’d just changed in her parenting (there’s 7 years between me & my sister.

    We had to badger them into moving into a senior living community—they hate it but it is the right place for them. They are not in assisted living. The role reversal is hard, though & it’s also hard because it’s a 90 minute drive for us each way.

    Running has helped me through many tough times in my life. Grappling over end of life decisions for the furkids. My dad’s brain surgery at 86. My mom’s surgery at oddly the same age, the one that made it clear to everyone that they could not remain in their home. The year of clearing out their home so it could be put on the market. And so on . . . I’m very grateful that I came to running in a time in my life where it turned out I really needed it!

    And that’s wonderful that it has brought you & your husband closer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was the baby too, Judy. There are 13 years between me and my sister. I am sure I had a much different experience of my parents than my sister did. they were 40 when I was born.

      Running has been so good for me in so many ways. I read that over and over again on running blogs. Besides the obvious physical benefits, there are emotional and mental ones as well. It certainly did bring Bill and me closer. It’s something we (usually) enjoy doing together!

      Good luck with your parents, Judy. I know it isn’t easy being in the role you are now in.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my gosh what a beautiful story! I am in tears! How sweet that your husband ran that last mile with you being your encourager for what, I would assume, is the hardest part of the race. You are amazing! And I am so sorry about your mom. But what a blessing that you had such a beautiful relationship with her!

    Thanks for linking up @LiveLifeWell!



    Liked by 1 person

    • Awww…thank you, Amy! My hubby is so sweet. It must have been so tough for him to run that mile after running a half marathon, standing around getting cold for over an hour, then getting to the right spot on the marathon course. The last mile is the toughest part. I am always so ready to be done! Thanks again.


  7. It sounds like you had an amazing relationship with your mum, I’m sorry that you went through such a sad time when she passed. It sounds like running was your lifeline and continues to be something that you are passionate about. #WotW

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did have a great relationship with my mom. I miss her very much, even though she has been gone for 12 years. Running has benefitted me in so many ways. I feel lucky to be a runner! 🙂


  8. What a great post! That is so sad about your mother, but your ability to find new joy in sharing a similar connection with your son is great. That is so impressive you not only were able to begin training so much again but to quality for Boston!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tracy. I am very lucky to have wonderful relationships with each of my sons. Hubby and I are currently out in CO visiting our oldest son, his wife and our grandson. This is my grandson’s spring break, so we babysit while his mom and dad are at work. It’s a win-win! 🙂


  9. I’m so glad that running helped you just when you needed it most and it sounds like it really brought you and Bill together too. That must have been an incredibly tough time for you recovering from illness and the loss of your Mom. I would say from reading your posts that some of your Mom’s indomitable spirit has certainly passed down to you. #WotW

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, running has benefitted me in so many ways. Apart from the obvious physical benefits, there are emotional, spiritual, and mental ones as well. Thank you for the compliment. Any comparison to my mom is welcome! 🙂


    • I am grateful for the benefits running has given to my relationship with my hubby too. I actually was with my mom when she passed. I just wasn’t able to be there in the weeks leading up to her death.


  10. That was a very moving post Laurie – you and I have discussed being close to our moms and how devastated we were to lose them. This was such a bittersweet turning point for you. I’ll wish you Happy Easter here as I know you were going to Colorado for the holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

      • More family time, no running time for you and Bill while there? I figured you traveled light (sans laptop) and were busy with the holiday. My mom’s severe dizziness began on Easter Saturday ten years ago. It does not matter what date Easter falls on, this holiday will always remind me of that time, a trigger, just like your memory.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We ran while we were in Denver and will probably try to sneak a few runs in when Mommy and daddy get home from work, but the focus of the trip is our grandson!

        So sorry to read that Easter triggers a sad memory for you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Easter is so fun with kids. We had rain for all the major Easter egg drops around my area. Our City’s event was Palm Sunday, an all-day rain. I’ve gone before to take pictures. Two other parks go all out with candy drops from helicopters but the helicopters were grounded due to inclement weather. I think it will always trigger that memory Laurie and the day we went to the E.R., we were there until midnight. They discharged my mom then and we drove home. She was unsteady on her feet, so I stopped at the police station and asked for two burly policemen to help get my mom up the door stoop and two cellarway stairs. They complied – were very nice and then the one police officer asked for some info to do a write-up for their log (even though I did the request by asking the desk officer). He said he could get the license info from the car parked in the driveway but needed my name and birthdate. It was my birthday, and with all the activity, I never thought about it. I said my birthdate – then said “oh it’s my birthday!” I wonder if he thought I was a little off, or just stressed about the whole situation. They probably cross-checked it when they got the license plate info.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I called down afterward to tell the desk officer how nice they had been. The one guy was pretty big, as in built like a middle linebacker, and helping my mom was effortless to him. Yes, it was not a memorable birthday and I totally forgot it was until he asked me my birth dates. Years ago I got eyeglasses on my 7th birthday. I said this should not happen on MY birthday (as if it was a special holiday or something). My mom said “there will come a time when your birthday is just another day and you really won’t care if it arrives or not.” I picture myself looking at her with awe that this should be true … yes it is true. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Despite the loss of your mother, you turned the experience into something beautiful to write about. I wish I had a close relationship with my mother, but we are both very different. I cannot change her, so the best I can do is accept her “as is” and love her despite our differences.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m glad that in spite of losing your mom and being so ill, your relationship with your husband turned around. Isn’t it fun to share adventures with your grown children? Nice memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I am very glad our relationship turned around. Running with Bill has been one of the best things that has happened to me! And, yes, I love adventures with my now adult sons.


  13. Wow, what a strong story about relationships, hope, and bouncing back. I am so glad that you were able to move on from your loss and illness and experience a wonderful new way of life that included running and deeper relationships. I worry about the day I no longer have my mom. We are really close ( she even ran my first half marathon with me). She said she drew the line there, no marathon for her…haha. But I think maybe one day she might. Thanks for linking up.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow! It was quite a journey for you! Sometimes God gives you an obsession so that you can see him better. Most folks never see a Long Term vision, and a marathon demands it. Running any distance takes concentration and good form.

    I am not a Runner due to physical restrictions and it is difficult for me to find projects that require that type of planning and preparation. I attend the 1K Mosey, the 2K Amble, the 3-day traipse (you wander around your favorite hiking trails for a long weekend). So when you talk of a 26.2 MILE run and 20-mile mid-week runs, I am flabbergasted! You inspire me. I just don’t know what I’m inspired to do! Hehehe.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. That brought tears to my eyes. That special relationship you had with your mom and not to be there when she passed must have been extremely heart breaking. I am so glad your health is better though and I’m glad you are taking something positive away from such a heartbreaking experience. I hope that my boys and I remain close as they become adults. #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

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