I haven’t posted a training log in a couple of weeks. There’s been a lot going on, and – quite frankly – running was the last thing on my mind. Not only did running fall off my priority list, but the desire, the drive and the spark have just…fizzled out.
One of my best friends ran cross country with me for one season in high school. She didn’t enjoy it much, as far as I could tell, and I know it was painful for her but she stuck it out that season. For me. So now I have to do something for her. I have to tell you Jasmine’s story.
I know that we all come here to talk about running together, that it’s the thing that each and every one of us has in common with one another, but sometimes something happens that is just so big in your life… And sometimes those big things make running seem so insignificant. My friend who ran cross country with me is one of just two people I have kept in touch with since high school, and those two are my closest friends. We all live close but rarely see one another except for the few times over the years when tragedy pulled us together. The Saturday before Easter we decided to break that streak. There we were: three women, nine kids, a home-made taco bar, an Easter egg hunt, sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, confetti eggs, virgin cocktails, not-so-virgin cocktails, and lots of laughter and hugs.
The oldest girl in the bunch, 13-year old Jasmine, hung out with the grown-up girls and shared our laughs and listened to us recall our own teenage scandals. She laughed with us, except for those moments we all once had when she’d groan, “MOTHER!” with a huge grin. My friend and I nudged each other and watched as she followed my 14-year old son down the hallway to fetch something or other from the back room. After everyone left for the evening, I got a text from my friend saying that Jasmine had thought he was cute. I razzed him about it for the next two days.
Six days later, I got an unimaginable phone call. It was in the middle of the night, so I didn’t answer right away, but once I shook off the sleep to check my messages I heard not my friend’s voice, though the call had come from her phone, but her mother’s. She said something awful had happened. I called back immediately, wondering if it had been a car accident. My friend’s mom said one word, but she said it with such hopeless despair, that it was all she needed to say: “Jasmine.” My immediate and repeated pleas and denial were not enough to make her take it back. She would not unsay it. She passed the phone to my best friend. My first words were, “I love you.” Her sobbing response was, “Jasmine got hit by a train and died.”
I couldn’t process what I heard. No details were forthcoming during that long, wakeful night. But before the sun came up, I got a text message, “Can you talk?” Of course I immediately called, with no plan of what to say, just the determination to be on the other end of an open line, whether my friend wanted to talk or just to sit there and know I was with her. She told me the story of Jasmine’s last day of life.
Jasmine played select volleyball and was recovering from a sprained ankle that had sidelined her for the last couple months. That Friday, her mom (my friend) took her in for physical therapy and then dropped her off at school around 10:00. Jasmine was making great progress in PT, and their parting that morning was a warm, sweet and ritual exchange of I love you and Have a great day. She had no idea that she was hugging her daughter, her friend, her confidant, her joy and purpose, for the last time.
Jasmine and her mom spoke on the phone after school that day – Jasmine had received a commendation for outstanding performance on a standardized test and was excited to share the news. Mom and daughter were beaming with pride from opposite ends of the phone.
That evening, she begged off her 7 year old brother’s t-ball game because her ankle was sore from that morning’s PT session. Her father kissed her goodbye at 5:45, and took her little sister (10 years old) and brother to t-ball. Jasmine’s mom got home shortly after 7:00, with both kids in tow after text messages and phone calls to her daughter went unanswered. Her key did not click into the lock of their apartment as it typically did, but slid in as if the door was unlocked. It was. She was immediately suspicious and concerned, because – as in any household – house rules deem that the door stays locked and unanswered at all times when Mom and Dad aren’t home.
Jasmine wasn’t home either. Her mom searched the apartment for her, then drove in circles in case she had broken the rules, as 13-year olds are wont to do, and gone out for a walk. Jasmine wasn’t in the apartment complex.
The Find My iPhone app showed her phone at the railroad tracks adjacent to the apartment complex. Thinking maybe her daughter had broken the rules and left the apartment, subsequently dropped her phone and was out looking for it, my friend headed that way. She was met by crime scene tape, police cars, news vans, and first responders. Her cries, screams, and pleas fell on deaf ears as she demanded entrance to the scene to find her daughter, whose phone was somewhere behind the yellow and black tape. All on the scene refused to give her any information, until victim services escorted her back to her apartment to confirm what she already dreaded.
The nightmarish evening has been followed by nightmarish days for Jasmine’s family. They are broken, shattered, devastated, desolate and inconsolable. Already living paycheck to paycheck, because they invested every dime and every moment of time into the children’s pursuits of select volleyball, competitive choir and cheer, t-ball and other activities, my friend felt huge amounts of guilt for even considering logistics. But she had to. They could not pay for a funeral.
As the days of the last week have melted into one another, lubricated by tears and peppered with sobs of grief and loss, it has become clear that the family cannot return to their apartment by the railroad tracks. The train’s predictable schedule is a stark reminder that the world is moving on, even though Jasmine’s has stopped. The sound of the horn and the subtle rumble of the vibration is too much to bear.
It is not the intent or purpose of Salty Running to make you cry, or to ask you to do more than you are comfortable with. However, if it is put upon your heart to help this family – MY family, by extension – please keep them in your hearts and dedicate your next run to them.