Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's been an emotional couple of weeks

Wow! These last two weeks have been pretty intense as they've brought a lot of the events over the past year full circle, in some tragic and heartbreaking ways and in others more hopeful and encouraging. The emotional roller coaster ride really started almost two weeks ago when i read of the hit-and-run death of Brynn Barton who was killed while riding her bike near downtown SLC. It's been just about a year since Bunny was likewise killed while riding her bike with a group of friends on a beautiful summer morning. The news of Brynn's death hit hard, even though i had never met her or didn't know her. Friday night i attended a benefit bike ride and memorial for her and had the opportunity to talk to her mom for a few minutes. I know on some level how hard this is, though i can't possibly understand how her parents feel, or how my brother felt losing Bunny. Regardless, it's painful and tragic beyond words. Two incredible young women with a passion for life and serving other people, both taken within a year while riding their bikes in the streets of SLC. The encouraging and amazing aspect that i've seen again and again, however, is the support and strength of the communities who rally together to support the family members and make sure that some good comes out of these tragedies. I saw and witnessed this time and again after Bunny's death, and saw it again with the memorial ride for Brynn, as well as how her family and friends have chosen to remember and celebrate her and her zest for life. Nothing can compensate for these lost lives, but there's a lot to be said for how those who survive move forward.

This weekend i also had the opportunity to take part in the last leg of the Huntsman 140. By last leg, i mean, i only rode the last 40 miles, but many rode 140 miles, and a small, amazing group of eight rode all the way from Reno, NV to the Huntsman Cancer Institute (a ride of about 667 miles). this ride was started years ago by Jeff Warren who, after beating cancer, decided to ride from his hometown of Reno to the HCI to raise awareness for developing less toxic treatments for cancer. This was the tenth year he's done it. As they rolled towards Salt Lake City today, a group of 100+ riders and myself joined them for the last leg. Let me say first of all, over the past year i have had the opportunity to meet and interact with some really amazing people. Jeff Warren is certainly one of them, as is Cindy Yorgason, a breast cancer survivor, who always greets me with a hug and a smile. And another guy who i can't say enough good about is Steve Kelly. Talk about a heart of gold, I'm consistently impressed with the way Steve goes out of his way to include, support, and encourage others. Case in point, "Echo's Mile." You may remember Echo from a previous post about the rotationplasty surgery that Doc Jones has done for a couple of young cancer patients with sarcomas in their femur. Well, Steve arranged for Echo to meet us and ride on a tag-along attached to his bike for the last mile up to the HCI. Mind you, Steve was finishing up 667 miles, regardless, he attached that tag-along to his bike and he and Echo rode together up to the Huntsman Center across the "finish line." This was definitely the highlight of my day, seeing her pedal along with Steve with a big 'ol grin on her face, and thanks to Steve for making it happen and inviting me to ride along with them.

I was unexpectedly overcome with emotion as we rolled up to the HCI. It's just shy of a year ago now that i rode the very same road with my brothers, brother-in-law, and dear friend T-dub on the way to my own amputation as a result of cancer. As i rode that last quarter mile to Huntsman, this time surrounded by yellow jerseys and other cancer survivors, i started to cry just a tiny bit. It was an amazing experience to relive my ride a year ago with some of the people most dear to me, and to repeat it this weekend with a group of new friends.

I wrapped up the weekend at the Ray LaMontagne concert. Again, emotional for a host of reasons, i found myself up and down, crying and smiling with each new song, letting go and starting anew.

It's been a shitty year, i'm not gonna lie, but through it all, i'm still alive, i'm still able to do the things i love, and although i've lost some of the things that are most important and dear to me, i know i have so much to be grateful for. Sometimes life gives you lemons, so you do your best to make lemonade. Sometimes that lemonade is still bitter, but i'm extremely grateful for those around me who have been there to add a little sugar to make things just a tad bit sweeter. Thank You!!


Alarming Female said...

Beautiful post, Matt.

Laurie said...

Oops--this is Laurie Oberg--I automatically posted under my blog name--sorry!

Erin Bradley said...

matt, proud to call you brother. you have a huge heart!!

fatguyonalittlebike said...

What about when life gives you shit? I've never heard of anybody making shitaid.

Jonnie J said...

I'll take a glass of that Shitaid. Way to go Matt. Your perspective on challenges inspires those around you.

Brooke said...

You are an incredible human being, Matt! There are no words. Thanks for being a part of the H140 and for all you do and for just being so awesome all around and for killing it out at the National Paralympic qualifiers. You're the best!! -Brooke at HCF