I've always looked at life as a story. An endless plot detailing how life responds in the intersections of the individual moments in our lives. Some of those moments propel us toward incredible joy. Some into deep sadness. Some send us off in an array of emotions that only begin to make sense as we frantically search together for some greater meaning.
Nearly three months have passed since Meg Menzies' Monday morning run intersected the path of an out of control SUV along a road near her home in Hanover County, Virginia. The vehicle struck her and she died shortly after. From the outpouring of sorrow that followed, many people were introduced to Meg for the first time. Under the circumstances, it's an introduction all of us would have politely declined given the choice. But there is no denying, getting to know Meg Menzies has changed more lives than we'll ever know.
The sad irony is our beautiful hello came at the expense of a heart wrenching goodbye. Last week I spent some time talking with Scott Menzies, Meg's husband, who was running with Meg the morning she was killed. As he described his final moments at Meg's side, I felt an awkwardness about the inspiration and renewed hope toward people I'd begin to feel through Meg's death. I'm not alone in those feelings, I'm sure. It's one of the cruel ironies in life, that one man's anguish becomes another's motivation to run further and faster, to overcome what was once thought unconquerable, to latch on to more beauty along this run through life. Scott wouldn't want us to respond any other way, but the reality is he spends a part of every day wondering if Meg heard him when he bent over her lifeless body and told her he loved her. He wonders if she heard his last goodbye.
We were sitting on a picnic table at the church where Scott's children were participating in a Wednesday evening Awana program when he shared these thoughts with me. Several times during our conversation Scott picked up his phone and looked at it. I think he sensed I'd noticed, so he explained he'd told his children if they needed him to call. He told me the previous week had been his three children's first week back to the Awana program since Meg's death. When they got home that evening his oldest son, Gabriel, who is 9, was acting distant. When Scott gently asked if something was bothering him, it triggered a flood of tears, a kind of hurt Scott said he'd never seen from Gabriel. It turns out Meg was always a part of the Wednesday evening Awana program. On his first Wednesday back after missing several weeks, Gabriel wasn't drawn to all that looked familiar and welcoming, his eyes searched for what was missing. His mom.
I could tell Scott was still beating himself up for not predicting how his kids might respond to their first night back to Awana, but believe me, he was prepared this week. And there was no way he was going to miss their phone call if it came.
I have 5 and 7 year old sons - the exact ages of Scott and Meg's youngest two children - Whitfield and Skye. That's why this dad's heart sank when our conversation turned to Scott's struggle to answer his children's questions: How and why did mommy die? Where is she now? Does mommy see angels?
My two boys ask for another glass of milk before they go to bed. They don't ask me why their mommy is never coming home.
It was ultimately the questions Scott's kids asked him and the questions he'd been asking himself that drove him to the one place he knew he could find answers. Running. In the moments after Meg's death, Scott swore he'd never run again. Who could blame him? But he couldn't escape the reality that he and Meg weren't out for a leisurely jog the morning Meg died. Meg was training for the Boston Marathon.
The more Scott thought about that race, the more he realized it was his last chance to be exactly where he knew Meg would have been. His last chance to see life the way Meg would have seen it.
"I want to be where I know she was going to be and see what I know she was going to see," he told me.
I asked Scott if he he'd thought about the kind of emotions he might experience over the course of the 26 miles and several hours of that race. Without thinking, Scott told me he hoped it would be like the Marine Corps Marathon that he and Meg ran together in 2011. He said it was the best race he'd ever run, not because of his speed or where he finished, but because he and Meg thoroughly enjoyed their togetherness in that race. That's when I got it. Scott wasn't running the Boston Marathon in Meg's honor. He wasn't even going there to finish something Meg started. He was going to Boston to run one final race with Meg.
I asked Scott if he'd thought about what he might feel when he crosses the finish line. He told me he knew it would be emotional, but the hardest part of finishing the race will be figuring out what's next. Training and looking forward to the race has helped fill the void left by Meg's death. I think he knows this one last race is in many ways one last goodbye.
I have to tell you, I reached out to Scott when I heard he was going to run the Boston Marathon because I could imagine how difficult that race would be for him. I was blown away by his courage. I told him I thought getting to know Meg had appropriately moved many corners of the world to greatness, but his story was powerful as well. The story of a man with every reason in the world to pack it in, but who for one simple reason refuses to.
"My kids need me."
Scott shared some incredible stories about Meg with me. He told me what a talented runner she was. He told me how she made him look foolish in a weight room so he stayed away from the ones she was in. When I asked him to project his finish time in the Boston Marathon he assured me it would be ugly. Meg was the runner, he said.
He smiled, even laughed as he told me those stories.
Scott's face turned very serious when he talked about how Meg used to challenge him to be a better father, to be a stronger reflection of God to their kids. As we sat on that picnic table in the shadows of the church where Scott waited on his children, and as we shared stories about the struggles of being a dad, I could feel Meg sitting there, watching the moments in our lives intersect. I never got to meet Meg, but I could feel her assuring me that I was in the company of an incredibly courageous human being, a committed father, and a faithful man of God. As I watched Scott walk away to pick up his kids, I could hear Meg say, with pride in her voice, he's got this.
Scott spent a large portion of our conversation sharing how grateful he is for the outpouring of support he's received the past three months. Starting with his and Meg's parents, his family, his boss, his co-workers, and on down the line to complete strangers - Scott credits them all for holding him up and giving him a chance to ease back into a life that refuses to stop for anything. Even the loss of your wife. I hope all of you will join me as I pray for Scott the next two weeks as he prepares for the Boston Marathon. And let's pray that when Scott runs where Meg would have run, and sees what Meg would have seen, that his heart will be filled with memories of one incredible last race.