I was running when I heard steps behind me. Moving a little bit to the right, I glanced quickly over my shoulder. A woman pushed a double jogger stroller in one hand and guided an energetic golden retriever in the other. She passed me brightly.
“Morning!” she smiled.
“Hi.” I panted in response as I watched her move on down the road.
After I was smoked by the mama runner, I reminded myself to stay in the moment. After all, it was mile five and I was keeping a slow but steady pace. I had no reason to begin self-judgment. Still, I caught myself looking backward at this and other less than stellar moments on the run, and then considering ways to improve in the future. Look back, look forward… it’s a pattern I find myself challenged to avoid.
I do believe that reflection is important, though, and I allowed myself to indulge in my past.
Because sometimes I just need to remember.
Have to remember.
In fact I cannot stop remembering.
I remember a sunny, chilly day in early spring. Our mother gave us sunglasses. Excited, my sister and I ”sunbathed” in turtlenecks and cordury pants on a towel in the front yard. We felt so grown-up and looked so silly.
I remember when she tried out for the soccer team her freshman year of high school. I was a senior and had decided not to play that season. She eventually became captain of the varsity team, and I was so proud of her. She went on to lead varsity field hockey and basketball teams, and sport became an integral part of her life. One of the men who spoke at her memorial service was a poet, a marathon runner, and visually impaired. Together they finished a marathon and a tandem bike ride through New York City.
I remember her telling me that she was nervous about him being faster than she was on the road, and I was like, “Well, sister, you’re the guide. He can’t run faster than you can!” And he did not.
If only she could hang with my boys today. Like our youngest sister (Aunt B), they would adore her.
I remember when all three of us came home one night from various restaurants, bars, and friends’ houses and met in the kitchen for a secret sisters meeting. We poured milk into big bowls of cereal at two o’clock in the morning, giggling quietly so as to not wake up our parents.
She kept reaching into this large bag of green grapes and finally leaned back, sleepy and full of grapes.
It’s like it happened last night.
I remember when I missed her law school graduation because I couldn’t afford to fly to New York from California. At the last minute I ordered a large flower arrangement to be sent to her home, where friends and family were gathered to celebrate multiple graduates (spectacular people really, I wish I knew them better). She called immediately to thank me for the flowers, and she sounded like I’d sent her a million dollars.
The gratitude in her voice made me feel like I should really be a better sister.
I remember when she told me about getting caught by campus police after streaking the lawn with her girlfriends at the University of Virginia. I believe that she was 21 years old, but the officer called our father to report the incident. I was concerned about his reaction, but my sister just laughed. She had a blast that night.
No regrets, no fear, just confidence and love and joy in her journey.
I laugh aloud when I remember how surprised she was after we settled into a seat on a bus in the Caribbean and a stocky woman pushed her large bottom against her to scoot her over and share our seat. Two-person seats are really three-person seats on hot, loud, crowded buses in the Dominican Republic.
I remember the soft, strong, gentle peace I felt as both of us moved through a stress-induced place that ended as we figured out other ways to cope and to heal. We left those days behind us as we became more compassionate to our own selves and to eachother.
I remember how beautiful she was when I helped zip up her wedding dress. She was also a bit unusally shy. Possibly she did not recognize her own beautiful self. I’m not sure. But as we moved into the evening, her graceful “I do” and the high-spirited delight of her personality filled the air.
I cannot forget how kind she was to me on my wedding day. Less than a year after she married, she insisted on taking a video of me sitting in my childhood bedroom. Against my will, she filmed this wonderful and funny video where we are silly and happy. Later she interviewed my father, my friend Gemma, and me again on the way to the park where I promised to love and care for my husband on a breezy, sunshiney, summery, sparkly afternoon.
Sometimes it is good to spend time in reflection. Its feels especially appropriate to indulge in memory on the road.
When I came home, my sister’s spirit filled my heart.
Elizabeth Kasulis Padilla was a champion of life.
Let us all live, run, walk and move forward in our days to celebrate her life and our own.
If you are so moved, please consider participating in the 7th Annual Liz Padilla Memorial Run in Brooklyn, New York. If you are not from or close to NYC, please consider making a donation.
With much kindness, appreciation and love.