I need to get this down before we get to the bottom of the Boston Marathon tragedy yesterday. While media crews swarm and investigators forage for the perpetrators of this horror, I am making myself focus on that 78 year-old man who was running his 4th marathon. You know, the one who was blown to the asphalt just yards from the finish line; the guy who emerged from the chaos with only a scraped knee? How many guys do you know who are actually running marathons at his age? Imagine the fortitude and will it takes to run mile after mile in a body that science has proven to be in decline. Now that’s heart and it is just what we all need in a crisis like this.
Everyone has heart when they’re young, even if it’s just for romance. Few seem capable of sustaining it, though, as the years pass. One glance in the parlor of a nursing home is evidence of that; a dozen, blank-eyed faces with gaping mouths greet you as if someone just knocked the wind out of them.
There’s a bench on the way into my gym. Almost every morning a 95 year-old woman is sitting on it, bent intently over a floor-length, knitted coverlet. Oh, she’s not just staying warm under it. She’s knitting it! Her bony, arthritic hands move the needles over and under with the precision of a conductor’s baton. She has done this so long she doesn’t even have to look at the work unfolding beneath her. It’s a good thing, too. Yesterday she told me she was almost completely blind.
‘What if you drop a stitch?” I ask.
She just smiled. “I can feel it. So, I just pick it back up and keep going. At my age, you know, you can’t stop. You can’t stop or. . ..”
That’s what the marathon man will do: get back up and keep going. And that’s also what the city of Boston will do. There’s only one real finish line in life. It’s unlikely that crowds will roar or flashbulbs pop when we finally cross it. But till then stay in the race. If someone knocks you down, keep your eyes on the one lifting you up and don’t stop.
Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes.”