read part 1 here: I Thought He Would Live Forever ( Part 1)
I became a star cross country runner in high school. I was state champion my junior and senior year and I owe all that to my dad. He gave me a passion to run and the work we did running and the lessons he taught made me the runner I am. I once remember asking him why he always started downhill. Wouldn’t it be easier to go up to Big Culver a half mile and go around the peak or something so that you end going downhill to Little Culver instead of finishing every run with a half mile uphill? He told me his runs are a lot like life. The flat roads of life are easy son, and the downhills are even easier. You can coast along and everything is alright. Your marriage is good, your kids are healthy, your successful at your job, your faith is strong. But what happens when you hit the uphill. When life gets tough. When your marriage is struggling, when your kids are sick, when you lose your job, when your faith starts to waver. That’s when you find out what kind of person you are. Are you going to quit? Are you going to walk away from your wife, your kids? Are you going to get angry and think everyone is out to get you? Are you going to yell at God and tell him you don’t need Him anymore? Or are you going to push on, are you going to persevere? You know that even if you feel like stopping and you feel like quitting that if you keep on going that you will get through it, you will make it to the top. Tough times don’t last son. Tough people do.
I can hear his voice telling me that right now. I take a deep breath and stare out the window, blinking a million times a minute to keep the tears from coming.
I remember it was my thirteenth birthday the first time I made it up the half-mile hill without stopping.
More memories flashback as I remember the days of my youth. I remember the friends I haven’t talked to in years. I remember my high school sweetheart. I remember my mom’s kindness to everyone who came into the diner. I remember my dad’s hard work. I remember the day I told my parents I was choosing to go to The Ohio State University instead of The University of Colorado. They were heartbroken but they knew I needed to get away.
I remember the last time I ran with my dad before I took the plane east. We didn’t say a word, just ran in rhythmic breathing. He had slowed down as he became older and I had become remarkably fast but we stayed together.
Sometimes more is said in silence than words could ever say.
The pilot comes on asking us to buckle up as we start our descent into Denver. The Rocky Mountains come into view and my heart skips a beat. It’s been a long time, too long. We land and I pick up my rental car and drive the hour plus home to Little Culver.
It’s July 19th, so there isn’t much traffic. I approach the Culver Pass Tunnel and a million emotions sweep over me. It doesn’t seem as big as it did when I was ten years old and they have added more lights to it, but I can still see it as I did all those years ago. I come out and head uphill to Little Culver. I pull into our driveway and have to sit in the car for a minute. What’s going to happen to mom now? Will she stay here by herself? Will she come back to Ohio with my family? A thousand things I had not even thought of before now. I was numb and in shock, I believe.
I thought he would live forever.
I walk into my childhood home and give my mom a hug. It’s funny how everything seems big when you are little. Everything seems so small now. Our front door, my bedroom, our living room, our one street town even seems smaller. My mom even seems smaller. So much more fragile than I remember. She holds on to me longer than I thought she would, she has always been so strong. I don’t let go. She pats me on the back, signaling it was time and grabs my cheeks and looks me in the eye and tells me we better get to business.
It was a long, sad day. We made all the arrangements, had hundreds of well wishers offering us their condolences. My dad touched more people by the way he lived than I ever knew. At his funeral, there was a line that went out farther than our little funeral home could hold.
I knew I had to go for a run before I left. I had to get the stress and the emotions out of me. I just needed to get out by myself. To run, to be free. I laced up my shoes and ran down the hill like we always did. I hit the Culver Pass Tunnel in full stride. It felt good to feel the Colorado air in my lungs again. I was in the tunnel and the emotions overtook me. I sprinted as fast as I could and when I came out of the tunnel I broke down. I fell to my knees as tears streamed down my face. I yelled at no one in particular. I hit the ground with my fists.
I knew I would never run through that tunnel with my dad again.
I gathered myself together and started to run again. I looked out at the beauty God had made and remember my dad telling me to always stop and look at the beauty around you. Life will get busy but don’t forget what really matters in this life. I’m sorry dad for not coming home more often. I’m sorry for not calling more. I’m sorry for….but then I remembered dad telling me that life goes on no matter what happens to you. Respond with kindness, react slowly, forgive always, and always, always be a man that keeps his word, a man of integrity and character.
I turn around and head back home. I run through the tunnel and hit the hill with a smile on my face. I am heading up the hill, feeling strong. I think I might just go all the way to Big Culver. A slight breeze blows to my right and I look over and I swear for just a second I see my dad running right alongside me. I’ll make it through this struggle It’ll be all right. Life goes on but a part of me will never be the same. A part of him will always be in me. I make it up to Little Culver and stop. Thankful for this town, thankful for my mom and thankful for my dad, all who made me who I am today. Sometimes it takes a loss of a loved one to remember that we are alive and that we will be okay.
I thought my dad would live forever and he will, a part of him will always be in me, in my children, in their children, always.
Song For Dad by Surrender The Crown –
Miss You All The Time by O.A.R.-
Fishing With My Dad by Bobby Bones-
What I Wouldn’t Give by We The Kings-
Chevy and Daddy by AJ Sanders-
Hold On To Memories by Disturbed-
While You Still Can by Brothers Osborne-
Time Machine by State Champs-