I'm not a runner - just a mom trying to deal with the death of her daughter. Kristy was a multi-talented woman and a professional athlete. Running helps me to feel her presence. And it offers a little peace. - Kristy's mom
The following entries (from beginning runner to half marathon finisher) represents a continuing journey of tremendous grief and sorrow, and of transformation - largely through the therapeutic power of running. The sorrow that has broken my heart open wide has in time allowed me to experience the beauty of being in the present moment. And of course, without the support of family and friends to guide me, I would not have made it this far.
Today I was at our lake, Kristy. My new friend Cindy and I were walking with Jack and talking about you. I told her stories about our trips to the lake. How you ran while I rode the bike. How you pushed me up the hill when I finally said I had to get off the bike to walk. I told her stories about you and Clas, your boyfriend. How when he was not feeling very strong you would take him on short walks to the lake and take me along for good measure. Of course Jack came along as well.
I was smiling when I got home and realized Cindy has never met you. All she knows about you lives in my memory. But through my memories you have come alive. You have become a real person to her. She asks questions about you and you come alive in all your glory. And this is the truth of it, even though I have never met Shakespeare, Lincoln, Picasso or even Amy Tan I feel as if I know them.
During these long walks I have also met Cindy's mother. I can feel her mother's love as Cindy talks about her. I too can see her through Cindy's eyes. Even though Cindy's mother is no longer alive. Cindy and I have both shared our loves with each other and in so doing have received comfort in the reliving. For you are alive in these moments. It is as if you have never left me. There is a gentle comfort in talking about you, my darling. There is so much to tell.
Yes. In these moments it is as if you have never left. And someone whom you have never met knows you and carries your memory with them.
On my last trip to New Mexico the sun split the rain
clouds and a rainbow formed.
While I was running this morning these thoughts came to me. My love for you is like two parts of one puzzle. If I had not loved I could not have felt your loss so cruelly. If I had not mourned I could not have recognized your love so completely. I am sharing this journey with you.
How's things. Today was pretty boring until the postman came to the door and gave us the mail. You know how that upsets me. It didn't use to bother me but Karma started barking at him and it really seemed like the thing to do. Now I can't stand it and we really bark loud. Is that bad?
You know what's strange is that we still get lots of mail with your name on it. Mostly nutrition catalogs and advertisements. But like your mom says, it's nice to see your name. It's a sad kinda sweet thing.
Oh yeah and here's something I was dreaming about last night. Remember when we spent the night at your house. There was this big black cat named Pickles that kept trying to get into your room. The door was closed and we could smell Pickles under the door. None of us got any sleep that night. Sorry we kept you awake Kristy. In my dream we caught Pickles and we did something I'm not too proud about. Maybe some day I'll tell you.
Hey Kristy - look at us! Remember when you used to carry me around all the time? Yeah I was pretty relaxed about it for sure. I just found this photo of us. You look so happy - but then when we were together you always did.
You're wearing your Choctaw T-shirt and it looks cool. Hey, you know how I would always chew on your nose? I never did it to anyone else but you. Even your mom tried to get me to do it but I never would. It was our little thing.
Some people think dogs don't remember. But we do. I dream about you all the time. In my dreams we are at the lake. Once you took me there and I got to run with you. I didn't do so well because I kept trying to jump on you instead of just running forward. I was only trying to tell you how happy I was. Now we will never get a chance to get it right. But I still have the memory.
Today I thought about you when I was on the back deck sunning myself. It's not too hot now so I get to lay out every now and then. Remember how sensitive my skin is? I still can't use any of that flea stuff so I have to get washed lots. Yeuch.
Guess what? I met some new dogs! They belong to Chris and they are even smaller than I am. But the great part is one of them is a girl. Yep - she likes me. Actually she's crazy about me. But you're still my number one.
They came over to play last night and we got to run around in the back yard when it was dark! Kinda like a party. If you were here I know they would love you just like I do. So where ever you are - here's a big kiss from me.
Oh yeah I remember what I wanted to tell you. Remember when you used to bring us special treats you got at Trader Joes? That was cool. And remember when you used to throw me back and forth on the sofa and the big stuffed chair like I was a rag doll? And I pretended like I was going crazy and ran around and around in a circle?
Hi Kristy - it's Jack again. I was thinking about you again while I was lying on the couch with my human. She misses you too. Sometimes I know she is sad and I think that is why she cries so much. I just try to look cuddly so she will hug me and that seems to make her feel better.
Anyway I was thinking about the red sweater you gave me. I still have it! It is one of my favorites. It used to belong to your stuffed moose and then you gave it to me. It used to belong to another dog for a short time - Sonya. You told me all about Sonya but I never did meet her. Thank you for telling me stories about her.
You were one of the few people who treated me like an equal. Even though I was on the street and ended up in a shelter you took pity on me. I will never be able to thank you enough. You changed my life! If I could smile I would, because you make me feel good.
Well gotta go. There are cats walking around the house and well - you know.
It's Jack. I miss you. Remember when you used to come over all the time and make fun of me? I really didn't mind because I know you only said those things because you loved me. Even when you would call me Pee Rag because I wasn't potty trained and someone who will remain nameless put a diaper on me. Those were pretty scary days, huh?
Anyway did you find the dog toy I left beside the side of the road for you? It was the little purple one that you used to tease me with. Yeah, the one that looks like a girl's toy. I didn't mind when you said that either. You knew so much about what dogs like it was great.
Remember when you took me for a walk and let me off leash for the first time? I ran after some cows and you thought for sure I was gonna get kicked in the head. I remember how fun it was when you chased after me. After that you put the leash back on.
Even though I am just a dog I want you to know I loved you with all my heart. You made me happy when you gave me so much attention. I don't really know where you are but I think about you all the time. There are lots of pictures of you in the house. That's good.
Well that's all for today. I have to get caught up on my nap time. I will write more later.
Jack and Karma are our two dogs. Kristy loved them very much, especially Jack who was our rescue dog. When she was away they would both send emails to her. Here is one from Karma expressing her frustration over Jack (in the red sweater above):
KRISTY - HELP US. NOBODY WILL PLAY WITH US NOW THAT YOU ARE GONE. THEY KEEP US LOCKED UP IN THE HALLWAY ALL DAY. I CAN'T TELL YOU WHAT A PAIN IN THE BUTT THIS JACK IS. ALL HE DOES IS BITE MY ASS ALL DAY. HE NEEDS TO GET A LIFE.....SOME DAYS I JUST WANT TO KNOCK HIM THE HELL IN THE HEAD. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN??
LIKE HE THINKS HE IS SOOOO CUTE. ALL HE DOES IS BITE THAT CRAZY WOMAN AND THE GUY ALL THE TIME. YOU KNOW THE ONES THAT LIVE HERE WITH US? YEAH, THOSE TWO. THE ONE WHO TALKS LIKE WE'RE BABIES ALL THE TIME. I HATE THAT SO MUCH. WHY DO YOU THINK I AM THROWING UP ALL THE TIME? ANYWAY, JACK JUST KISSES UP TO THEM ALL THE TIME SO HE GETS ALL THE TREATS AND STUFF. BUT GUESS WHAT! ALL THE POOP THEY FIND IN THE CORNER - LET'S JUST SAY ALL IS NOT AS IT SEEMS. REVENGE IS MINE KRISTY. I WILL GET THAT DIRTY JACK. HE CANNOT ESCAPE MY WRATH.....
NOW THAT I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION. WHAT ABOUT TREATS? HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY THOUGHT LATELY AS TO WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO BRING ME? MAKE SURE IT IS WAY BIGGER THAN WHAT YOU BRING THAT BRAT JACK. KNOW WHAT I MEAN? GIRL POWER AND ALL. AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE I WON'T POOP IN YOUR ROOM.
SERIOUSLY - WE NEED A REAL REALITY CHECK HERE.
LET US OUT. WHAT AM I SAYING - LET ME OUT. (BLANK) JACK!
The following is from a Newsweek essay written by James Ellroy. It is about a young girl who recently died. To me it is profoundly accurate and articulates the power of the dead over the living.
The dead claim the living and begin the process by marking their departure in time. Before and after become crucial narrative lines. Hypothesis runs crazy as enforced logic fails to explain the viciousness and banality of fate.
The dead claim the living and extend the process through the imposition of grief. It is the juncture of powerlessness and harrowing loss. Byroads of guilt and rage lead to the assignment of blame, the desire for vengeance, and the embrace of the preposterous notion of closure. Bereavement is inherently ambiguous and unique to each carrier of grief. The time lines vary. The emotional arc is wholly unpredictable. Powerlessness and the corresponding sense of loss obliterate all attempts to blame and all planned forays of vengeance. This is entirely as it should be. This is the living telling the dead how much they are loved and how irretrievable the loss of them is. This is communion of the highest spiritual form.
The dead claim the living through imagined repetition of the horror they endured. This is shock therapy as higher calling. The loss of their corporeal love teaches us to love on an infinite scale.
The dead claim the living and tell us how to live. It is imperative that we listen and adhere to their sanction. We are required to work toward probity and comport ourselves as though our lost ones are there with us. This call to virtue proves efficacious over time. We send messages to a spirit and get no material answer. There is only the assumption that she is there and we are here and we must not falter at our task. There is no human terror that the persistent application of love and devotional consciousness cannot transcend.
On mornings such as today I find myself a little lost. My heart aches for my daughter. For a brief moment I can hold her in my mind and heart and remember what it was like to have her by my side. I still have that swell of pride just thinking of her goodness. Her beautifully tender heart and brutally blatant drive to achieve the impossible. Her joy was to let go of conceived limitations and do what her soul told her she could. She relished the fight.
These feelings come to me so strongly every time I remember Kristy. The way I have coped with her loss has been to escape to the nearby lake and run. Being surrounded by the awe of nature has been a sort of substitute and a way of prolonging this feeling of being in her presence.
Some mornings like today are perfect with clear blue sky and lazy new sun. And I can't explain how some days I am guided back to the lake and some days I fear it. Today the lake looms large and I suppose I am just fearful it will not offer the solace I seek. I feel weak and disappointed with myself when this happens.
When I am weak I now know it will pass. This is what I have learned.
Last week I traveled to New Mexico and spent a week with my sister. The purpose of the trip was to drive to Santa Fe and attend the Indian Market. For the last two years I have driven the thousand miles to Santa Fe to sell my paintings. This year I did not sell at the market but decided to go and experience it as a "tourist". I'm so glad I did. I was not able to walk around and visit all the artists in previous years as the market strongly suggests you be in your booth at all times. But this time I did and saw so many beautiful things and met so many talented people.
A few years ago Kristy helped me to prepare for my first market. I set up my booth in the living room and we hung all the paintings. She had a good eye. She also helped me name each piece. She took her time and made sure everything was ready to go. Unfortunately she had a race during the same weekend but we often talked about her coming with me in the future.
Now more than ever I think of our conversations about the future. Her passion - triathlon competition, and my passion - painting. We were committed to helping each other to reach our goals. When I say reach I really mean surpass - both of us knew we would never be satisfied but would always strive to achieve more. You can never reach the end of your passion. It is always there to drive you on. It's what keeps you going.
As my sister and I drove through the vast New Mexico desert we spoke about Kristy. She was present with us every step of the way. I can never forget her strength - I find it is always there if I open my heart and listen.
For a long time I have been afraid to fly in small planes. The turbulance always makes me nervous and I dread what could happen. Yesterday I flew in a small plane as I returned from my sister's house in New Mexico. I wrote this as I looked out the small window.
this moment of presence is infinite in it’s fleeting, elusive permanence all directions radiate out from center from Now all connections with all beings alive even in this silky silence where full moon light scarcely penetrates clouds and bats circle me without sound
a house holding me me holding space solid as stones weightless as feathers of which I am the same I would release every thing every thought, every memory, every belief that forms me let sunlight be my name until water claims me again for desire I cannot release
who would it be that I am imagining looking so deeply into me whose eyes can hold my untamed gaze and let me enter without resistance leaving past and future, stress and projection leaving the scurrying mind in the center of a wet spring meadow in glorious rich greens where they shall consume themselves as we turn and walk without looking back
I do not know the name of what comes for me nor why I resist I know the sounds and memories that ache and echo and that rarest beauty emerging from inconceivable loss but I don’t know if anyone hears the songs we sing alone nor how far I shall wander to receive the seeds my body will transform and birth into still other forms of intelligent light I do not know how I became this dance
so I walk the river at night, denying sleep because an awakening demands it’s moments feeling the effortless rise and fall of my chest as I take and release the invisible in all these words my lips remain together I endlessly circle around the One I will not utter or write for tonight I fear to reduce the miraculous to banality the mystery of all presence united by gossamer filaments of indestructible indefinable actuality I reach out for words as forming shapes in the air before me to convey and comprehend these waves undulating through the space I am and then lay them aside as they fade back to formless
returning to the ancient symphony where all space and time explode in wonderment
"Finished in Beauty" one of Kristy's favorite paintings
Wide shoulders Thick legs Veins that have been a beacon He says it is his vision that is good He says I am his girlfriend He asked if it hurt I bit his cheek I show him my pallor My softening legs He lowers his eyes. My wine glass remained full as I drank.
Kristy had a great love of music. She enjoyed all types. I would regularly make copies of my new CDs (don't tell anyone) for her. She is the one who turned me on to the Lilith Fair series. Later, I got the individual CDs of each artist and we enjoyed them together. Any music with violin, cello or even banjo was always a hit! She loved chamber music and Cajun. I was thinking about this when I wrote the following.
we both loved the cello
with it's throaty lament
and joyous rhyme
earthy inner chimes
naked with longing
like a dog
chasing after its bone
P.S. If Kristy were here she would be wishing her big brother Val a happy birthday. She loved her big brother very much.
To my friends and family: Please do not take this poem personally. It was written with but one person in mind. This is part of the clutch of poems I wrote yesterday in a fit of honest emotion. They show feelings I have not dared to voice. I am just hoping it may help others know they are not alone. When I heard the poems of the woman who lost her daughter 6 years ago I realized I was not alone in my thoughts and it comforted me.
Yesterday I was listening to NPR as I painted. A woman named Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno was talking about a book of poems she had written called "Slamming Open the Door". These are poems written about the death of her daughter who was murdered six years ago.
As I listened to her poems I immediately identified with her descriptions of death, loss and grief. At a break they played a song which was played at her daughter's memorial. It was her daughter's favorite. I somehow knew when they said it was by Coldplay that it would be the same song we played at Kristy's memorial. It was the song Yellow.
The poems she read were brutally honest. They took me back to those first days when death is palpable - a living, breathing entity. I was inspired to sit down and write about how I felt. It has now been over a year since Kristy's death and I have learned to control my grief so I can function. Nevertheless I felt I needed to write something that bears more of my soul and my struggle to survive.
Today I sat down and wrote 6 poems. I did not stop to search for the right word. They were right there on the tip of my tongue. This was the first:
Kristy told me not too long ago that I should read Alfred Lansing's book "Endurance". I finished it a few days ago - I could not put it down! This is the true story of Ernest Shackleton's incredible 1914 voyage through the Antarctic Ocean. It is a story so full of seemingly insurmountable obstacles that you cannot help but feel the agony of those who battled the ice and wind for 10 months while being stranded in an ocean of frozen bergs. The whole journey lasted a year and is pieced together from the logs of the men who were there. This book was written in 1959 which allowed the author to interview all the surviving members. What I read made me realize we are capable of super human feats when when we feel there is no other choice.
Kristy knew about pain and endurance. She talked about how she liked it when the pain came so she could enjoy the challenge of riding it through. She wanted to push her body to the brink of what it was capable of and then keep going. She loved this book - and I'll admit I did too. I even took it to the gym with me and read it while on the bike. I just couldn't put it down!
Endurance. Don't give up. I could feel this message from Kristy loud and clear. And I won't give up. I will keep on. I will face the wind and the rain, the pain and the heartache and I will keep going. Somewhere out there Kristy knows and she is cheering me on. At least her spirit is because it can never die. It is alive in me.
Kristy told me about this incident the day it happened. She must have sat down and written this poem shortly afterwards. She didn't show her emotions easily but nevertheless her feelings ran deep. Although sometimes disappointed in love I know she was also transformed by it. In her own words she said she knew there were others who were "made from the same piece of soul".
Did you see me? Did you know I was there? That military stance is seared into my head. A still portrait. I don't know what I saw before or after. Your heels together toes outward for support. Slender ankles You have lost your softness. Your many earrings and the new darkness of your hair. Her expectant face turned upward towards you hanging in an eternal joke
I was fifteen feet from you! Fifteen feet. There's a world somewhere a justice too Where I could walk to you Move slowly to your ear and tell you you're with me everyday. That I love you.
I can only say before I forget like any intense emotion that seeing you jolted me so entirely I became senseless to time, etiquette, place, myself. For that period of time, I was so close to you that I felt as though I was in your heart, in your burgundy shoes and the warmth of your browned skin was my own.
More of Kristy's earlier prose (are you listening Sonya?)
By what right was sin defined? Is it not a greater sin to be bound without feeling. Than to be true to the blessed innocence of passion? They have passed through ages without question Tradition has sealed their fate. Their sightless eyes hold only an accusatory stare Their tombs await their wasted bodies The same bodies they sacrificed for the imagined salvation of their souls. their bland devotion to the truths their fathers laid before them Will eradicate their ability of independent thought. The path they have tread is deeply worn,. No deviation is permitted. The tomb they have decayed in will be passed, like their traditions, to those who learn to stifle their questions.
(My interpretation of the mentality of the community in which Hester and Dimmesdale live) Kristy Gough, 1994
Kristy's English teacher was not amused by this poem. Needless to say, Kristy was not too amused by Math. One thing about Kristy - when she didn't like something she was the first to tell you. And if she didn't tell you then you were really in trouble!
Brick by brick, it's layered high Equations, radicals to the sky. An unmovable wall made of shit The wall surrounds and becomes a pit.
I claw and claw at the crud, and soon my hands are a mass of blood. But I am not the first I know. I watch the heap of corpses grow.
My brain is sore, my limbs are weak Never will I each that peak. The clouds have gathered, dark and gray I will not reach the end of day.
They burst open and begin to pour The blood of those who died before. It tinkles down this wall of shit. Into my personal, hellish pit. The walls collapse, the worms are free, To take this pain away from me.
It's becoming harder, at first I just desired him,
wanted him, wanted him to desire me appreciated that he could appreciate me loved that he could love me.
Then it traversed my expansive ego. Now his words trigger my thoughts, my feelings, my tears. He must be happy I can say truthfully, that he was made to be happy and content. It would break my heart to think that he does not love me with the same wonder and familiarity that I love him.
I'm happy with the syrupy sweet sadness.
He's so like me - from a different time and a different place - our nature's are so similar. As I sit here I still believe the words he told me with that look of deadly earnest. You can have what you want. It's so hard to do right by him, and I can feel the time when I must begin
What of buildings and corporations and bosses? They elicited no respect from me I saw greater possibilities in life Than they in their vaults of forged security. they required that I sacrifice my natural freedom To enjoy the comradeship of their ranks. They prod and poke at a diseased heart in hopes of implanting obligation, the ruiner of men.
Don't misunderstand me- I am not the messiah of an unacheivable morality. I was a man, and a mouse, There was nothing noteworth in my existence. Except that I questioned.
It is beyond humans to change fundamentally in time that can be passed in a handful of lives. I can only hope that my optimistic pessimisn will be captured by another mind, in a time more forgiving. I don't claim any false pretenses to having suffered in the name of my principles. I cannot lament what had no substance to be abused.
My life was a nameless speck, created in the interest of continuation. There was no weightly meaning to it. I was created and proceeded to decay. I saw what little there was to see, And nothing more.
(In the style of Biff Loman, a character in Death of a Salesman)
Girl lithe and tawny, the sun that forms the fruits, that plumps the grains, that curls seaweeds filled your body with joy, and your luminous eyes and your mouth that was the smile of the water.
A black yearning sun is braided into the strands of your black name, when you stretch your arms. You play with the sun as with a little brook and it leaves two dark pools in your eyes.
Girl lithe and tawny, nothing draws me towards you. Everything bears me farther away, as though you were noon. You are the frenzied youth of the bee, the drunkenness of the wave, the power of the wheat-ear.
My somber heart searches for you, nevertheless, and I love your joyful body, your slender and flowing voice. Dark butterfly, sweet and definitive like the wheat-field and the sun, the poppy and the water.
Kristy was one who was very concerned about what the world was coming to. She hated pollution, she always recycled, and she bought second hand items all the time. Whenever something was not needed she would simply put it in the front yard with a sign on it that said "free". She gave away lots of things this way!
She embraced Obama, although she did not live long enough to see him voted into office. But she did vote for him in the primary. For as long as I can remember Kristy always tried to leave a small footprint. She did not waste and she did not want. She wrote the following:
Most of us yearn for a simpler life. We try to compensate ourselves by taking up gardening, or we take the family camping, all the while wishing that these things were not hobbies and distractions, but the core of our lives. It borders on irony that these feelings exist in almost exactly the same form, if not with more vigor and enthusiasm, than they did over a century ago. It is a lesson in history brought to life.
Just because there is dissatisfaction, there is no reason to believe there will be action. We hear of it historically all the time, we wonder why no one did anything to change the environment; but nothing brings it home like when its happening in our own time.
Who knows, perhaps when our time becomes a "creed outworn", it may be a historical quandary why we let rampant industrialization take over our lives and environments. More likely, this time will be looked back upon with envy, compared to what our future may hold.
On June 21 a group of cyclists, including Kristy's team from Third Pillar, rode a portion of the route Kristy took on the day she and Matt Peterson were killed. They asked me to ride with them and I did. Click on the above title to see a short video of the ride. The link will direct you to the Mercury News video web page, where you can pick out the video entitled "Memorial Ride".