It’s been awhile since I published a post here.
After the Boston marathon, I took a little break from blogging and social media. I was still running (of course) and strength training as usual, but found some freedom (and a bit of extra time and headspace) by not documenting it all for awhile.
But I missed this community; I also missed the Strava community and the Instagram community. I look forward to rejoining and participating in the positives that these groups have to offer. Stay tuned for a much more active summer of blogging, I promise!
Unfortunately this first post back is not one I wanted to have to write (EVER), but it’s one I need to share. It’s also a big part of why I took a little “leave of absence,” so-to-speak.
My mom died on Sunday, June 5, 2022.
She fought hard against many health challenges, most of which stemmed from a diagnosis of Polycythemia Vera many years ago. The treatment for this disease is very hard on the body, and unfortunately every terrible thing or side effect that could happen to her, did. Between brain surgery, multiple bouts of skin cancer, throat cancer (& a challenging surgery/recovery), many issues from long hospital stays, and more, she fought more health battles than one person should.
Before all this, she was such a healthy person- she didn’t smoke, she didn’t drink, she ate very well, was very active, (maybe just as active as her five daughters!)
Her final hospitalization was for fungal and bacterial pneumonia. Her body was too weak to fight anymore and she passed away in the Bronson hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan after a three week stay there, including time in the ICU and on a ventilator.
I flew to Kalamazoo on the Friday before her passing with my sister Cresta (the sister who also lives in the Twin Cities area). When we arrived at the hospital, my mom really did seem to know that we were there; she even smiled a little when she heard our voices and as we held her hand.
By Saturday, we had met with the hospice doctor with my dad, and discussed the next steps, with the understanding that she would not recover from this. We were only prolonging her suffering by not moving her to comfort care. Once that (incredibly painful) decision was made, she passed peacefully that same evening/early morning at the much-too-young age of 71.
I knew the loss would be painful.
In fact, I had thought it was coming many times before when she had other very serious health scares.
But when it actually occurred? Way harder than that….It rocked me to my core and the grief was physically painful. I don’t think I ever cried so much as I did those next few days.
A friend shared this article with me, that does a great job of articulating the waves of grief, the ups and downs that hit me at random times and will probably continue to hit me at random times for years…
And running? Oh, right, this is a running blog. Well, to be honest, running through this immense grief has not been easy.
While in Kalamazoo the weekend of her passing, my sister Erin and I ran together early Saturday morning before visiting hours started that morning at the hospital, and that was a “core-memory” type run. It was meaningful to cover a few miles with her, to get a break from that hospital air and process together what was happening to our mom, and well, to our whole family.
I flew back to Minneapolis late Saturday night, knowing that any news after that point would be THE news, but finding comfort in knowing I had been there to visit her in her last days. I was able to tell her I loved her. I also found comfort in knowing that I was there for my dad when he needed us the most.
After my dad tearfully called me early Sunday morning to tell me that she had died around 3 am (he, my aunt Linda, and my sister Emily were in the room), I cried for some time and laid in bed for quite some time snuggling with Ruth and Matilda (they seriously knew I needed them. Vizslas are the best support dogs.)
Eventually I thought that running would make me feel better, a bit more “normal” and maybe clear my foggy head. So Dustin and I went for a run together, and while I so much appreciated that time with him (and Ruth), physically running through the grief was like running through mud.
In the first few days that followed, I felt so heavy, like I’d been hit by a truck. I was so tired- the emotional strain really does manifest as physical strain. I felt like I had run multiple marathons in a row on zero sleep.
During the week between her death and the funeral, I ran most days, but more often than not, the run would include some crying.
Tip (that most runners probably know…): crying and running do not mix. It led to some hyperventilating and many walk breaks as I tried to pull myself together, where everything and everyone reminded me of her.
Yet eventually, I did start to feel better after each run, even if fleeting. It started to bring me the same relief and comfort that I had always counted on.
I have a feeling its going to feel harder for awhile- everything is going to feel a little harder without my mom around- but I’m hopeful that running will help to provide me with the comfort that it always has.
Dustin and I flew back to Kalamazoo on Friday, June 10th. The funeral service was held on Saturday, June 11th. The two of us ran 5 miles on Saturday morning before the funeral and it was a bit surreal, but it really did help me feel more “normal” going into the emotional day.
We ran another 6 on the Sunday after the funeral and I actually felt better than the whole previous week, like a little bit of the heaviness may have been lifted, maybe there was a little bit of closure from being with my family to say goodbye the day before. We were able to celebrate her life and share many special memories that I will cherish.
It was so wonderful to see all four of my sisters and all nine of my nieces and nephews, plus many aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends that I had not seen in many years.
I held things together better than I thought I would – well, most of the time.
My dad is such an amazing person and I love him so much. I know how much I am hurting.
He is hurting so much more…
My sister Erin and my sister Laurie both gave eulogies at the service; both were so incredibly heartfelt.
One of my favorite lines from Laurie’s eulogy was the following:
“Reflecting on this topic made me remember when my maternal grandmother passed away – my Babcia. Soon after her death, I was talking to my mother to see how she was doing. She said to me,
“The hardest part, Laurie, is knowing that I cannot just give her a call to talk.”
Yes, mom, that is the hardest part. Each day, something happens that I want to share with you. I pick up my phone instinctively to call or text, and I am reminded that you are no longer here. This is the hardest part.”
My mom was always so supportive of all our running and other kinds of adventures. In fact, she and my dad were my most loyal blog readers. To know she won’t be there anymore, she will no longer be reading and then calling me to chat about it brings the tears again. To know that she will no longer be cheering for us, even if from afar, is really tough.
One of my favorite parts of my sister Erin’s eulogy when she quoted Brandi Carlile’s song “Most of All,” a beautiful song about learning from your parents how to give away your love.
Here’s a video of Brandi singing it; it’s one of Erin and my favorite Brandi songs:
I could write many many blog posts about how incredible my mom was and how much I’ll miss her. She was such a supportive and kind person. She inspired both my love of sports and reading- and dogs! She loved dogs nearly as much as me.
Her obituary is posted here, with a beautiful slideshow: https://www.langelands.com/obituary/Jennifer-Wedel
I’ll post it below in full for posterity as well.
Obituary: Jennifer Rose Wedel, 71, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, went home to be with her Lord on Sunday, June 5, 2022. She had a blessed life and was a tremendous blessing to many. Jenny was born on March 14, 1951, in Oakland, California, the daughter of Edward and Jean (Boren) Julius. The Julius family moved to Beloit, Wisconsin, where Jenny met Gregory Wedel, one year her senior at F. J. Turner High School.
The high school sweethearts continued to date while Greg attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, and Jenny worked at Wisconsin Surety in Madison, Wisconsin. They were married September 9, 1972, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Beloit and Jenny joined Greg in Atlanta where he attended graduate school and she worked at the Fulton County Courthouse. They then returned to Beloit, where they raised their five daughters, the joy of their lives.
Jenny held multiple family jobs: chauffeur, chef, maid, coach, secretary, and, of course, master scheduler. She coached volleyball and cheerleading. She was always supportive and smiling.
Before moving to Kalamazoo in 2002, Jenny worked for Black & Decker and attended Blackhawk Technical College. She received her associate degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Jenny was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. She enjoyed camping, canoeing, reading, gardening, going for walks, playing volleyball, birdwatching, taking care of her beagles, playing euchre, and spending time with family, especially her grandchildren. She was a faithful member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Beloit and of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Portage. Faith and family were the cornerstones of her life.
Jenny and Greg would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in September of this year.
Jenny was incredibly selfless, always putting others before herself. She provided a listening ear for her five daughters and for others, and she served her church as a Stephen Minister. Her first thoughts were with others – even while in the hospital. She fought her medical challenges over the years and never complained about the hand she was dealt. She trusted God’s plan for her. She touched many lives. She will be greatly missed.
She is survived by her husband Greg and their children: Cresta (Scott) Jones of Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Erin (Oscar) Cantu of St. Charles, Illinois; Emily (Todd) Reese of New Albany, Ohio; Jessie (Dustin) Benson of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Laurel (Jeff) Johnson of Kansas City, Missouri, and her grandchildren Margaret, Clara, and Harriet Jones; Palmer and Delaney Cantu; Mikayla and Addison Reese; and Anders and Bergen Johnson. She is also survived by her sisters Eleanor Newton and Phyllis (Reg) Haw and her husband’s siblings, Linda (Phil) Eberle, Ann (Larry) Rubin, Gary (Jean) Wedel, and Karl (Carrie) Wedel, as well as many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, Edward and Jean Julius, her brother-in-law Paul Newton, and her husband’s parents, Oscar and Mildred Wedel..
The family would like to thank friends and relatives for their love, support, cards, calls, and prayers, particularly during this past year. The family also thanks Rev. Paul Naumann and the medical staff who gave her such kind attention and her grandchildren who kept her heart so warm.
I know she’s no longer suffering, but I am so very sad to have to say goodbye. And I am so sorry for anyone else who has had to lose a parent. I know that I am so fortunate to have my four sisters and my dad to go through this with; I hope that if you are reading this and know what this type of grief feels like that you too have/had a support system to pull you through.
I know my mom loved reading this blog and following along with my life here, in addition to calls and texts and visits, of course.
But since the calls/texts/visits have now ended, I will continue to document it all regardless, even if it means writing posts like this, posts that aren’t really about running at all, are they? But posts that honor the mark she had on my life and the space in my heart that is hers.
To all of you who reached out with thoughtful messages, cards, flowers, and more: thank you. This is a wonderful community and I appreciate the support. Let’s all give away our love, even through the vast space of the internet, through running, sharing, and supporting each other, just like my mom did.
I’m sharing this post as part of the link-up with Running on the Fly and Confessions of a Mother Runner as part of their Weekly Rundown, even though it’s not really a weekly recap. Hope that’s okay!
Sending all the love in the world to you. What a beautiful piece and celebration of your mum. When a friend of mine passed away last year, I found running incredibly helpful for the catharsis – letting me cry, but yes you do have to stop to cry! – and also helping me to unlock talking to friends about it when I ran with them. I did end up talking to a bereavement counsellor too, but knowing I could go for a (yes, terrible at times) run with friends or to cry on my own was such a blessing. I… Read more »
Thank you Liz for the kind words. Running with a friend or two (or a sister) has been similarly helpful to me to unlock talking about it, sometimes even without breaking down. I’m sorry for your loss of your dear friend.
This is a beautiful piece; Mom would have loved it.
My dad died suddenly 9 years ago yesterday. I remember hyperventilating on those first few runs like it was yesterday. Because it was so sudden, I didn’t have any of my running stuff with me so I had to run to the near-by Scheels to buy new gear so that I could survive that week at home. I am an only so as I hung with my mom that first week, our trips to the running path became critical to my mental health. Know that you are not alone! And yes, puppy cuddles are very important to the healing process… Read more »
I’m so sorry for your loss Jackie and thank you for sharing. Puppy cuddles and running seem to be good advice for grieving. Glad you had your mom with you!
Jessie, I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. I cannot imagine the pain you must feel. What a wonderful woman she was, and it looks like she raised incredible daughters. How proud she must be of you and all your families! Sending you peace and I hope you can smile through the tears as you remember all the incredible memories that will always be there.
Thank you for Sara for the kind words. I will cherish all the memories I had with her!
What a beautiful tribute to your mother, Jessie – I know these words are reaching her in heaven and she is smiling down on you. Thank you for sharing with such honesty about the challenges of running through grief, yet also how running remains a means of healing. Sending love to you and your whole family as you continue to grieve her death and honor her life.
Thank you Rita, I really appreciate the kind words. I’d like to think it’s all still reaching her 🙂 That is comforting.
This was such a beautiful tribute to your mom. Thank you for sharing her story with us. I am glad that you have been able to use running as a way to help with your grief.
Continuing to keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
Thank you Kim, you have been so kind during all of this.
I love that last photo of your mom zip lining, Jessie! I am so sorry for your loss. You’ve posted such a touching tribute. As hard as it is not to have your mom physically with you, she truly will always be there. Sometimes you’ll feel it, but sometimes the grief will cloud everything.
my thoughts & prayers are with you & your family.
Thank you Judy. I’d like to believe she’ll always still be with me, even though I really miss her physical presence…
I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m thinking of you and your family. I’ll be running some miles focused on hope, strength, and heart healing for y’all. (BTW, your comments about running through your grief are so relatable. It’s bizarre how running can be part of the process for experiencing all the things, from celebration to sadness). <3
I’m glad you can relate- running is definitely a part of my process, it is often the process for working through it. Thanks for checking in Katie.
Absolutely wonderful post, Jessie. I am proud of your writing and your ability to capture this life change so well. Love you!
She seemed like an incredible lady. You were lucky to have such a mom.
Hope those memories bring you comfort.
Glad to have you back in the blogging world
Thank you Darlene.
So very honest, Jess. Thank you for writing this.
So sorry to hear about your mom. She was the best!
Such a lovely tribute to your mom, Jessie – she sounds like she was amazing, kind woman who raised a wonderful family. So much love to you and your family, and all the Matilda and Ruth snuggles ♡
Thank you Erin. Definitely extra snugs with Ruth and Matilda lately.
This was a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing. Wishing you comfort and consolation.
Thank you Eric.
Oh Jessie, I am so very sorry for your loss. I know it’s a HUGE loss, for you and your family and the many others your mother knew. I sincerely hope your grief lessons as time passes, though I doubt it will ever disappear (and I don’t believe it should). Huge hugs to you <3
Thank you Kim, I appreciate it.
Oh, Jessies, I really am so sorry. It really is so hard. Like you said, the pain is real. It does heal though, but not quickly and not necessarily steadily. I lost my Dad unexpectedly a while ago, and I remember that first long run being both hard and cathartic. I’m glad you’ve got so much love and support from your family and are able to lean on each other in this difficult time. You will cry together, but hopefully also laugh together over those great memories.
Thank you Coco. I’m so sorry you lost your dad; it’s really tough.
I am so very sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to her and I hope it helped you process things to write it. Grief is a very unusual and often surprising emotion. I lost my sister very unexpectedly 4 years ago. Running and crying helped me on some days. Now, even 4 years later, I feel her absence and miss her so much. I believe that means they were loved so much and made a huge impact on so many. hugs to you and your family at this difficult time
I’m so sorry about your sister Deborah, that would be so hard. Thank you for sharing.
I am so sorry about the loss of your mom. She sounds like an incredible person and had to be to have raised 5 amazing daughters. This was such a beautiful tribute to her and I’m sure it felt very comforting to put your feelings into words as you did here. I agree with you (and I’ve said it more than once) that you can’t cry and run at the same time. While running is such a stress reliever, sometimes it’s not easy to run when you are so overwhelmed with feelings. I’m so glad that you are back here,… Read more »
Thank you Wendy. I missed you all!
Jessie, I’m so, so sorry. And I know how hard it is. My mom passed away twelve years ago, at the age of 72, from MS. Even though we knew it was going to happen, when it actually did happen it was incredibly shocking. I think there’s just a part of us that can’t believe our parents will ever die. It really does get easier, but it takes about year to get used to it- I guess it’s because you have to go through every single holiday and significant occasion without her for the first time. Even after twelve years,… Read more »
oh wow, I’m so sorry Jenny about the loss of your mom to MS. Thank you for sharing.
[…] there was my blow-up at the Boston marathon, then my mom’s passing, and now this […]
I am so sorry for your loss, Jessie. I’m happy to hear that running is helping you clear your head and relieving your heart of some of the heaviness. What a wonderful tribute to your mom! I know these tributes are hard to write, but you will look back over it for years to come. I still occasionally read the post I wrote a few days after my dad passed away suddenly almost nine years ago and it brings me so much peace when I read it. Sending virtual hugs your way!
Thank you Debbie. I’m sorry that you lost your father. It’s nice to know that the post you wrote still brings comfort. I hope this one will do the same for me.
I’m so sorry, Jessie. Thanks for writing so openly about your grief. It’s clear your mom was a really remarkable person—and that comes through in who you are and how strong your family relationships are. I’m holding you and your family in my prayers. Oh, and the crying-running thing: spot-on.
Thank you Betsy for checking in. I hope you are doing well!
I am so very sorry. Sending big hugs. I can’t even imagine what that feels like. When I lost my grandmother who was like a second mom to me it was physically painful. I wasn’t a runner then though.
Thank you for commenting, I am sorry for your loss as well.
What a beautiful celebration of the woman she is. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. And yes, not being able to pick up the phone and make a call is so hard.
Running through mud is the perfect analogy. Glad you were able to get out some b ecause I think it would have somehow been even harder without that outlet. And yes, pets absolutely know when we need them.
Love you. Hang in there as best you can
Thank you Cari. Hugs to you.
I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your Mom was a wonderful woman. Grieving is so hard. With her being such a big supporter of your running and your blog, I am sure she is running with you now. Just keep smiling through the tears while remembering all the wonderful moments.
Thank you so much Michele for the kind words.
I am so, so sorry for your loss. There are just no words. Your mom seemed like a truly beautiful person, and that legacy will surely continue through you and your family. Thinking of you all. <3
Thank you so much Jenn.
I was so sad to hear your news and reading this post has left me so emotional. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing human being. Losing my mum was and still is the hardest thing I’ve had to go through – but being part of a solid support system really does help. I also found that running in the months she was in hospital and after she passed really helped me navigate the pain on those especially tough days. Sending you and your family so much love and strength and wishing you the best as you make your big… Read more »
Thank you Shathiso and I am so sorry for your loss as well. It’s such a tough thing to go through….
[…] awhile, much has happened. I ran the Boston Marathon in April, took a little break from blogging, went through the devastating loss of my mom, and then announced our upcoming move London (in 3 […]
I am so, so sorry for your loss. You don’t know me, but I love reading your blog. Your love and care for your mom and family are so clear in all you write. Keeping you all in my thoughts.
Anne, thank you for reading and for commenting. I appreciate it.