The last year has been the worst year of my life. My father was diagnosed with colon cancer in October of 2013. After treatments and reconstructive surgery, he was ready to come home cancer free. The day he was to come home there was a snow storm in my home town. I prepared to travel, to the northeastern Ohio small town I still call home, to get my dad from the hospital to his house via my four wheel drive. I had the whole plan on how to get him safely from the truck to the back door of his house. I was prepared to drive on the lawn. The morning before he was due to be discharged my mother called me. She said I needed to come immediately something had happened to my father. I grabbed a basket of clean laundry that I had yet to put away. I had not put away my clean laundry from being there for the surgery the week before. I planned to return anyways so why put it away? I rushed out the door, started driving north, and phoned my mother to let her know I was on my way. She said do not rush he is gone.
That began the worst days of my life. I was in shock as I phoned my childhood friend to say dad was gone. The days to follow were surreal. In the mist of that grief only one thing remain as a foundation, my workouts. My dad and I shared a passion for lifting weights. When I traveled home for holidays dad made sure I had a guest pass to his gym. We would sometimes go together, sometimes alone. But, I always worked out with my dad when there at some point. Now, he tended to chat more than most, working out his jaw muscles more than his body, nevertheless he was very fit at age 69. This is why all the gym patrons were shock he died of a massive heartache.
The days filled with receiving family, friends and making funeral arrangements only took place after my trip to the gym. It was the only place I could control what was happening. I could control how I lifted. I could control my sets. I could control how much I lifted ,which seemed to go up with all the stress around me. I could control how fast I climbed the stair mill or raced around the track. With sweat pouring off me and gasping for air, I would walk off to the locker room, remembering that my dad was not on the floor chatting anymore. I knew he was ok with me working out before I helped my mother and sister arrange his send off.
The months to follow did not get much better. The day after my father’s funeral my mother was feeling ill. I rush her to the emergency room. At that point, a cancerous mass was found in her lung. After months of doctors’ visits and surgery my mom is cancer free and doing well. During my mom’s illness I would drudge to the gym. I would pray and lift, pray and lift. I would put on my headphones and allow the weights to absorb my grief and worry.
Today when I return to my home town, my mother makes sure I have a gym pass. I still go and use my strength training and cardio to release my stress, fears and worry. After my work out, I drive to the cemetery to see my dad. Tears pour from my eyes each time. I am still not over the loss. I never will be. In the darkest days of my life, I still traveled to the gym. I worked out quietly with friends of my dad’s giving me a nod. Then I go to talk to dad. The gym saved me. It truly saved me.
Peace, Wellness & Joy,