“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…”

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. -2 Timothy 4:7-8

This has been a challenging year in many ways.  Perhaps the hardest, and at the very least, the most recent challenge is the end of a very good fight, a very good race.  A very special woman, who has taught me how to face every challenge with the prize in sight, has gone home and received her prize.

When I think about my aunt, three simple words ring in my head.  Fighter. Strong. Faith.

And I am blessed.  I am so blessed to have had someone so special, someone who loved me like I was her own, someone who touched my life beyond measure.  She was a blessing from God.

She is the one who gave me a place of peace when I needed to retreat.  She is the one who I trusted for counsel.  A special bond that I was lucky to experience through the friendship she and my mom shared.  She was my mom’s best friend.  My mom’s rock and thus, became one of mine.

I think I shocked everyone when I began running marathons.  But I wasn’t brought up as a quitter.  I was raised to be a fighter.  Maybe even raised that way unknowingly by some of the strongest women I know.  And the marathon is a challenge that is different each and every time you step to the start line.

One of my favorite races has become the Tucson Marathon.  I have run a PR at that race 2 out of 3 times, but the best part has been knowing I would celebrate with my aunt and uncle after the race.  I remember the first year I ran that marathon, I travelled there alone and started the journey of 26.2 miles by myself.  I knew I would see my aunt and uncle at mile 18, which was the highlight of my race.  I had never had family cheer me on at a race prior to that.  I remember the jolt of energy seeing them gave me, and how disappointed I was when that jolt disappeared as suddenly as it had come across me.

And then I reached mile 23.  I heard a big “Nikki!” shouted from across the street and I saw my aunt standing there, waving the sign my mom had sent to encourage me.

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This is a memory I cherish and I will never forget.  This embodies who she was. She was  one of my biggest supporters.

More importantly, she was a role model.  As my cousin so eloquently wrote in her obituary, my aunt was a born again spirit.  She was a woman of faith.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit.  She was a fighter, until the very end.  She faced challenges head on, stubborn and unwilling to give up.

As I prepare for my next marathon, now just 4 weeks away.  I have decided that I will dig deep.  I will find that strength that lives within me, the strength that my aunt exemplified.  I will rise to the challenge and persevere, as I have had the blessing of witnessing the women in my family do.  Because that is who we are.  I will run this race for her.

And when it’s done, at the end of the race, I will have a glass of wine, and raise it in her honor.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

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