I had the honor the other day to interview the family of a local fire chief who was killed in the line of duty nearly seven months ago. Jason Plotkin (marathon photographer extraordinaire) grabbed them for a quick photo, and they took a few minutes to speak to me.
They spoke of the fame they never wanted and the support they never expected to receive. The shared laughter, tears, and moments where they struggled to find the words to say.
How do you answer the question of how are you? Or what has life been like since you lost your loved one. You just can’t. There was more said in the glances between them, than the words I wrote down. And so much more left to say one day.
How do you prepare for that first holiday with an empty chair? How do you wait for the phone to ring and forget for a second, only to think maybe it’s your son?
While I was an amazing conversation, that I’m truly honored to have taken part in, there’s part of it that I wanted to share with you.
The late chief’s wife and mother had gone on their way, to meetings and the rest of the day, and I stood in the hallway of the Holiday Inn with his father, Paul. I got his wife’s email address so Jason could send them photos and videos from the funeral. He told me how much those captured moments mean to him, and I told him I understood. That Jason had come with me recently to photograph my Team Fox family and the NYC Marathon. And that, yes, Jason does amazing work. He’d done a great video of my father and Parkinson’s.
At that moment, Paul looked at me, reached out for my arm and gave me this look. The “Oh, Parkinson’s” look. And it took my breath away.
This man lost his son and he’s still got the energy to care and feel sorry for someone with Parkinson’s? He shouldn’t have to feel that way. And I’m grateful that I don’t feel that way anymore when I say to people that my Dad has Parkinson’s. It’s not the end. It’s not an empty seat at my holiday table this year. For that, I’m so thankful.
Paul and I stood there silently in that moment looking out the glass doors into the cold. I buttoned my coat, and thanked him again for giving me the chance to tell their story. Shaking my hand, Paul seemed to look through me as he said just above a whisper: “I’ll miss those calls… Dad, what are you doing tomorrow?”
We all have a story to tell and a burden to bear. And I’m so thankful for this journey.