A week ago Monday, a young mother in our community, Meg Cross Menzies, went out for her morning run like she'd done countless mornings before. Her run was permanently cut short when an alleged drunk driver stuck her while she was jogging alongside a road close to her home. She left behind 3 beautiful children who rightly believed their mom's route that day would end where it always did - home. Waiting there would be her husband who serves as a sergeant on the local police force who, ironically, has been one of our community's leading opponents of drinking and driving.
Over the past week our community has mourned Meg's passing. They've loved and supported the Cross and Menzies families, as well as those who have been shaken by the sudden loss of a friend, running partner, church family member, teacher, and on and on. And I assure you the on and on list is no short one.
A community coming together to support their own in tragic times - I've seen that many times before. It's a beautiful thing. But watching this community of complete strangers grow by the hour and by the tens of thousands that has fallen in love with Meg Menzies, a now international community at that, has frankly been nothing short of miraculous. Awe inspiring.
This week I've read hundreds of posts on various megsmiles social media sites, the name collectively adopted by those who have been positively tilted by Meg Menzies death. And one sentiment seems to be repeated more often than others: I'm not sure why this has affected me so much, but it has.
I knew Meg's husband Scott, but not Meg. So I've wondered about the growing impact of her death. Not so much why I've been affected, or you, but this growing congregation that has heard Meg Menzies' story and been compelled to share it like a sermon with anyone that will listen. In a bit of an unusual twist for a social media story, this one hasn't focused on an evil villain, the driver, but on a lovely girl gone too soon. One morning Meg Menzies, relatively unknown outside of her small Hanover Community, goes for a run. One tragic encounter with someone who who shouldn't have been driving later, and people from all over the globe are crying. They begin to cry over the tragic ending of the story before they've even had the pleasure of meeting the main character. Then they meet Meg Menzies and cry all the more.
I think we spend a lot of time reaching for stars. There is so much evil and tragedy in the world that we often look to our pop stars as a way to maintain our own sense of hope. This often leads us to clinging to actors and music sensations, athletes and politicians - the famous - who all inevitably jump or get drug from the pedestals we place them on, leaving us disappointed, and our idols no more inspiring than the world that set us on our chase for them to begin with.
Then this hero comes along who runs. Granted, a lot and far, but she simply runs. She loves being a wife and a mom. She teaches and goes to church.
And get this, she treats everyone around her like they are her heroes.
Sometimes we get nervous calling people heroes who aren't part of the military or our local fire and police departments. And I would never want to minimize the heroic roles all of those folks play in our lives. They are heroic. But I looked up the definition of hero as I was writing this. I found this: a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.
I think the Meg Menzies story has affected so many because we hear a common calling, a golden-rule opportunity, to see heroism in places we ought to see it more. In a mother and a wife. In a runner. In a teacher and in a Christian. Meg Menzies has given us all the chance to see hero as something we can be, instead of something or someone we worship.
I've come to the conclusion that's exactly what I'm supposed to take from the tragic death of this wonderful lady. I hope and trust others have drawn their own conclusions, but this is mine. I believe Meg would have no interest in us pinning her picture on our wall in remembrance of a hero. I think her message is I've shown you what a hero is, now go be heroes to those who need them most. Go run - take care of yourself. Go build heroes out of your children, and out of those in your community who don't have near enough adults in their lives working to make them heroes. Go remind folks in your community doing seemingly ordinary things - that they are indeed heroes. You be the one to make sure they hear it before their run is cut short.
Last Saturday, I joined in a world-wide, virtual memorial run for Meg Menzies, even though I am not an avid runner. Unlike many who posted on social media, I loaded up my play list with music that would help guide my thoughts (although thanks to the input from many experienced runners I kept the volume lower than usual). At the end of my 8 mile run, and yes, I throw that in there as a bit of bragging, if only to impress myself, but at the end of that run my phone and music went dead. At the time, I thought it was a sign from a newborn angel not to focus on time and distance, since I was using my phone to track both, and that quiet was the better running ambiance.
I was wrong. At least partly.
When I went to the gym Monday I loaded that playlist back up where it cut off on Saturday. The first song that popped up was the only one I loaded Saturday that I had never heard before. I included it because of it's title. I'm convinced it cut off Saturday because I was exhausted at the end of my run when it would have played, and I would have never been touched by it like I was Monday.
I've included the song and its lyrics below. I don't know if it will touch you like it did me, or more importantly if you'll accept it as the same level of challenge as I have accepted it. But I've written this post as a reminder to myself that many of the stories being told about Meg Menzies are of a young lady who devoted much of her life to keeping this world moving forward, and in a beautiful direction. In reflecting on her death, I've concluded I can get stuck admiring all she did, or take hold of the baton and pick up where she left off. Maybe I can help make Meg's last race a relay. One that never ends.