One year ago today I was sitting in a quiet corner cubicle of the Ashland Public Library. I was supposed to be working but instead found myself distracted by the content I was pushing up and down my iPhone screen. Somewhere between looking at a weather map of Hawaii and a video of a 6 year-old boy slam dunking a basketball off a trampoline my phone lit up with an incoming message from my wife, Katie. In an instant, my life was altered, my mind abruptly snapped back from aimless wandering.
"Do you know Scott Menzies," her message asked.
I think back on that message at least once a week and wonder why such a simple question had to turn haunting. When I responded yes, I know Scott, why didn't she respond with an uneventful reply like - "I just met him at a meeting and he said to tell you hello", or "he just dropped some papers off at the house."
Tragically, that wasn't the message. Instead I got this:
"Someone just sent me a message saying his wife was hit and killed by a car this morning while they were running."
I sat there numbed by her words. I didn't know his wife, Meg Menzies. I didn't know her parents or siblings or even her friends. And the truth is, I barely knew Scott. We'd worked together on a couple of drinking and driving prevention projects, but we were hardly close friends. In the last conversation we'd had before Meg's death, though, Scott had given me a glimpse into just how much his family meant to him. That's the conversation I kept hearing as I stared at that message: his wife was hit and killed.
In the coming days the news of Meg's death spread around the world. By the thousands people began sharing how their lives had been touched by a perfect stranger. Before long I knew I was one of them. So I did what I do when something touches my life, especially when I don't completely understand that something. I sat down and wrote about it. That's when I wrote this article: God's Newest Angel, One With Years Of Experience.
Several weeks later there was a knock at our door. It was Scott Menzies. He'd dropped by to thank me for the article I wrote. He said it had touched him and his children and family. Truth be told, that's the day Meg's story began to permanently impact me. I was staring face to face with a man who had every right to be hiding in a dark room with covers pulled over his head, but instead he was standing in my house, looking strong and courageous, thanking me for the simple act of writing and sharing my thoughts. I was awed by Scott's courage that day. I've been inspired to be a better person by it every day since.
There isn't a playbook - a recipe - for dealing with what Scott has dealt with the last 365 days. When he and Meg went for their run that morning no one considered she might be gone before the finish line. There was no reason to map out how to break the news to his three young children their mom wouldn't be home for dinner, no warning to consider how you let a mother know she's hugged her daughter for the last time. There was no planning how to comfort kids who still cry a year later because they miss their mom. No thoughts about adapting to morning runs that used to be miles filled with sharing but are now miles filled with reminders the one you loved sharing with most is gone. And there was no reason to consider how you live in a house that no longer feels like home.
For the past year, Scott hasn't had a grand plan to deal with what's come his way. But what he has had is courage. I've wondered lately if I don't spend a little too much time planning for life to work out just right and not enough time building a character that allows me to not only survive, but thrive, when life goes all wrong. Maybe my prayers need to be more in the spirit of God help prepare me for the hard times ahead instead of God deliver me all good times. All I know is as I've watched Scott fall apart and pick himself back up over and over again. Not once has he been afraid to fall. Not once has he been afraid to reach for God's hand to pick him back up. Then once up, take another step forward. No real plan for that step. Just a faithful, courageous response.
From the stories I hear from Scott about Meg, because again, I didn't know her, I can't help but believe so much of her has poured into him this past year in the way of strength and courage. And from him into us. Day after day I go to the Megsmiles Supporters Facebook page to find people who've had the courage to do something they've never done before. Whether it's running or lending someone a helping hand. I see so many people not planning out the perfect run, but responding courageously to the one that doesn't go just right. I've come to believe Megstrong is synonymous with courage, and that courage pours into this group from the Menzies and Cross families.
I think back to a year ago, and for Scott's sake I wish I'd never received that message in the library. For his sake I wish I still called him a friend I barely knew, one my wife had never heard of. But today he's a best friend I love like a brother. A friend my wife adores as much as I do. The way he's traveled through this last year has been an example that's awakened me to many areas in my life that needed a splash of water in the face. I feel guilty being grateful for that, but I am.
There are many tears for Scott and the children and Pam and Wirt and all of their families and friends today. There should be. But as I went out on my run today I couldn't help but sense one big smile among those tears. Meg's smile. To see thousands of people running today that weren't a year ago. To know people who didn't know God have not only met him, but trust Him to guide their responses in life. To see the encouragement people offer one another, often strangers, frequently in her name. I can't help but see Meg's smile. And when I picture her looking down on the 3 children she adored more than anything on this planet, and on their dad courageously walking them through one day to the next, insisting their eyes are pointed to heaven, I know she's proud of the way Scott has responded to the unthinkable. To the unplanned.
And somehow, I just know she smiles.