It was the hottest day of the year. Many of the Lappin’ Lutherans who walked with us also walked with other teams – the City, The DA’s office, The Hospital…..It’s a community get-together and you run into all kinds of people that you might only meet occasionally. Walking a lap or two around the track gives you the chance to talk about stuff: swap stories with runners, talk about the Osprey chick nested over the track’s lights learning to fly last week, their story of surviving cancer, and the stories of those whose lives were lost but whose memories flower afresh every year during this event. You get a chance to put your busy life on hold for a few hours and just hang out under the shade of a tent sitting on the grass of the stadium. It’s kind of like a campout, and has all the ‘social network’ associations that Coleman talks about in their TV advertisments.
And then at 10:00 pm, after hours of walking and talking and resting, the lights go off and the glow from the Luminaria around the track is the only light beyond the moon and stars. Each light represents a life – one lost to cancer or one which won the battle. Poems are read, lives are recalled, candles are lit in memory – a spouse, a parent, a child, an uncle or aunt, a friend – and people begin to carry the memory around the track. You look around and all you see are candle flames making their silent progress around the path which has been hammered by feet all day. There is not a sound, only the flames, the living memories.
Last year Ruthann walked with us, lap after lap with her borrowed lungs. She was amazing. After a quick break, she was back on the track. I don’t know how many miles she walked. She put the rest of us to shame. Did she know that within months her chance to walk with us would slip out of her hands? Did she have an inkling that those lungs would ultimately betray her, and end the second chance at life they had offered. I don’t know. I miss her so often – her ‘can-do’ attitude, her willingness to take up any task, and her love of life and her church and of God. I thought of her so often as I walked and as I sat to rest a moment and she wasn’t there to take the baton and do a lap or two for me. As I watched those flames marching so slowly and silently around the track in the dark, I thought of all she left behind for us, and I thanked God for letting me get to know her in the short time I was her Pastor. He love of life, her love of God, her confidence in the life to come were an inspiration to me. “At night there are tears, but joy comes in the morning,” says the Psalmist. I miss you, Ruthann, but I am not sad for you, for I know you are living the joy which was promised.