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Measuring Life in Befores and Afters

About a year ago, I realized that when I look back on my life, it had become a series of “befores and afters”. While there are plenty of positive ones, like “before I met my husband and after I met him,” most of the memories I’ve reflected on recently have been difficult, life-altering changes.

The first I can recall was before I developed an infection in my eye that would alter my vision permanently, and then the “after.” Another was before my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after. The most prominent for, well, everyone, is probably before COVID-19 and… well, is it really “after”? I think maybe it’s just the “before,” and now.

COVID-19: Years of Befores and Afters:

It seemed like those befores and afters just kept coming after COVID hit. First, it was before my husband was hospitalized, had surgery and almost died, and after. Then, it was before I realized I needed more help to treat my depression and after I started taking an antidepressant medication. Even though all of those things happened over the course of a couple of years, it really felt like one long year of “before and after.”

Losing Mom, the Worst “After”:

My mom’s sudden and unexpected death in 2021 was the most difficult and life-altering change that has happened in my life. It seemed as though we had all been through enough and that there was finally some hope on the horizon. COVID numbers were finally getting better and the vaccine was becoming widely available. My husband was recovering and my depression was much more manageable. We even got to spend Easter with my family. Nobody could have predicted that only five days later we’d get the phone call from my dad that changed our lives forever: “Your mom died.”

Running Through the Changes:

One part of my life that has remained constant through all the changes is running. My relationship with running hasn’t always looked the same. Before my eye infection, I would always wear contacts when I ran. I have had to adapt to the changes in my vision and can’t always wear contacts anymore.

Before my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she almost always attended my races. After diagnosis and treatment she wasn’t able to be there in person for my races, but she would always text me her encouragement.

Before COVID-19, I was part of several running groups and often ran with my friends. Once lockdown started, I stopped running in groups and even stopped running with friends. My husband started riding his bike with me when I would go on runs to keep me company.

When my husband got sick, I stopped running for a while because I had too much on my plate. Running used to be the most helpful tool in my toolbox for my depression. It felt like more of a burden after all I had been through in 2020. When I started medication to treat my depression, I felt a weight lifted, and I started running more again. My husband started to join me again on my runs after he recovered from his surgery.

Running After Mom:

When my mom died, many people said to me, “Don’t stop running. Your mom would have wanted you to keep running.” My reply was, “I want to keep running. Not just for my mom, but for me.” After her death, I re-joined the running groups I had left during the pandemic. I started to run with more of my friends again. I signed up for races and I made goals for myself.

One Mile At a Time:

The first marathon I ran after she died was difficult. I dreaded waking up on race day and not getting a text from her. I also felt some comfort knowing that for the first time in many years, although it wasn’t in her physical form, my mom could be there with me for a race. In fact, for the first time ever she would be with me for the whole thing.

I saw and heard signs of my mom throughout those 26.2 miles. I wore a shirt that said “One Mile At a Time,” a nod to my mom’s journey through recovery, and it had my mom’s name and her birth and death dates on the back. Several people told me throughout the marathon, “Your mom would be so proud of you.” “Your mom is with you, always.” I agreed with all of them. I laughed, I smiled, I cried. It was one of the best, most memorable races of my life.

Still I Run:

I am still navigating the “afters.” After the events of the COVID-19 years, and what life after my mom’s death looks like. It may get easier over time, but I will always be trying to figure it out. I continue to find peace and strength in the fact that running is still here for me. No matter how different it may look, Still I Run.


By Megan Hammis

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