Ski to Sea is a big deal in Bellingham. This is a race from Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay, ending in Fairhaven Park, and includes Cross Country Skiing, Downhill Skiing/Snowboarding, Running, Road Biking, Canoeing, Mountain biking, and Sea Kayaking.
Rick has run in the race 3 times, we’ve volunteered to help at the hand off from the runners to the bikers twice, and we showed up last year to volunteer at the beginning of the canoe leg, but it was canceled due to fast and high water in the Nooksack River. (This is the first time in the history of the race that a leg had to be canceled.) Each time Rick and I have been involved in the race we have ended Memorial Day Weekend inspired and challenged to push forward, not only athletically, but in other areas of our lives. It always ends in celebration, whether we are involved or not. But there hasn’t been a year that has inspired us more than this year.
Ironically, this year, neither of us were participants, and we didn’t volunteer at any leg of the race. And, in fact, as much as we love the “It All Ends in Fairhaven” festival, we were only there to experience it for a few minutes. Rick picked me up right when my shift ended at the coffee shop at 4:45, and we raced to Fairhaven, texting our friend Debi all the way there. Our friend John had decided to compete in the race this year, and found a personal’s website where teams could post their need for a new member for a particular leg of the race, and where individuals could look for teams in need. John found a team in need of a kayaker, and John was a kayaker in need of a team.
Had we gotten to the park a little sooner I would have been able to set my camera appropriately to get some clear pictures, but we barely made it before John was coming ashore. We raced to the finish line and took the pictures we could. It would have to do.
Later that evening, while eating burgers and having a celebratory beer together, we toasted, “To Life!” because this race today was way more than just a fun little event that we got to watch John do. This race was an affirmation of life and health and fighting for both.
Last year around this time John was diagnosed with MS. I remember evenings with John and Debi last summer when he was first dealing with the news and it’s implications to his life and his family. We had many late nights pondering the randomness of life, and how does God really fit into it? Is God really here? Does He care? Does He see us and and will He help us? Keep in mind, these conversations are between two couples who had both been in full time ministry for years and had doled out the answers to these questions and others like them to devistated families for years! (I chuckle now at the thought).
I will never forget John’s face when he crossed that finish line and rang that bell! Sheer joy! Sheer love for life and in a healthy body that can still move and run and leap and dance! We later toasted to all of these things, to new starts and to friendship, and to a God who doesn’t stay in the box we try to keep Him in. We toasted to the next 6 years, when John wants to do each leg of the race, and continue to fight for his health and his physical freedom. We laughed and talked and sang to the band.
And then…We Danced.