Have you ever tried to walk behind someone in the deep snow and step right in their footprints? As you take each step, you may or may not hit each plant right in the already trodden snow. And then, coming back in the opposite direction
, it becomes even that more difficult to find and step in the already beaten path. Life seems to be just like this. I find that it is very difficult to walk in the footsteps that we left with Alexis. For one reason or another, finding those long past footprints is next to impossible. Either it is too emotionally difficult to search them out, or too much time has passed. Time frankly is the greatest factor in losing these long lost prints. In some fashion, that is very painful to know that the steps of the past are just that, past and gone forever.
Our family began going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 1999, long before kids ever became a thought. Those were the days of sleeping late, reading a book on the beach and napping wherever the body landed. Then, in 2006 when Alexis was approximately 6 months old, we spent a full 2 weeks in the OBX. It was a nice time. We continued to come on down and then 2008 hit. I don’t think I need to rehash what happened then. We were able to come back down in 2008 during the summer, and we decided to take another 2 weeks out. After all, there was no guarantee that after that summer we would ever return frankly. I recall as we drove away from the trip that year, Neely began to get emotional and said to me “do you think we will be back.” I remember exactly where we were on Route 12 when I looked at her and said, “we WILL be back.” And thus, in 2009, we made our return with Alexis and then with Gabe. We took other trips in 2010. In the summer of 2011 we decided to return to the OBX, this time without Alexis obviously and in a different location. Those footprints that we left were all too fresh and painful. There was little comfort in trying to find them and step right back into them with the obvious absence in our family. Alexis loved the beach and this vacation and her absence was more than palpable. We did the same thing in 2012; coming down to the OBX, but staying in a different location.
This year, we found the courage, and it does take courage, to head back to the old location and walk in some of the footprints that we left all those years ago. Some of the footprints are more painful than others. Many of you who have read this blog from the beginning know of Alexis’ love of feeding the turtles here. We fed those turtles. Gabe, Trevor, Neely and myself. We found them, we found those footprints, and we fed those turtles. The simple act of throwing food into the water and watching these reptiles pop their heads out of the water and snap the morsels up brought such mixed feelings. I frankly have such mixed feelings sitting here recounting it. Yet, we found those footprints, stepped right back in them and moved on. We walked on the beach and collected seashells, we swam incessantly, ate iced cream, and simply spent time together. The footprints are not as clear these days, but I know the places we used to walk. While training, on a run or a ride, I deliberately go past houses we stayed in with Alexis to bring forth the memories and find those footprints. They hurt. I will freely admit that there is abject pain in stepping back into them. But in some respects, the pain is a connecting factor and for that, I cannot turn away. It is like a familiar train wreck that you cannot avert your gaze from. I am grateful that the footprints, although hazy, still exist.
As the summer comes to a close, we focus on the 5th National Race Against the Odds on November 3, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. We are fortunate to have a truly amazing presenting sponsor in the Jim Koons Automotive Companies. (www.koons.com). We are hoping to make this race bigger and better and celebrate some of the kids currently battling brain cancer. Please, log on, register, create a team, donate, be a virtual runner, anything. www.raceagainsttheodds.com
Work continues to take up considerable amounts of time for Neely and myself. Life gets in the way of life without fail. Gabe will start back to school soon for his last year of pre-kindergarten. Trevor is about to hit 16 months. Time also gets in the way of life. It certainly is a double edged sword. Advocacy work continues to take up a lot of focus, and for that I’m blessed. I have been very fortunate to gain the platforms that I have from which to pontificate. It always amazes me that people listen to me. I would never have gotten involved in childhood cancer advocacy but for Alexis. Accordingly, it goes without saying that I would obviously rather not be doing what I’m doing. With that said, it is her fight that we continue. She never quit, and neither do we. From writing, speaking and
lobbying (www.jonathanagin.com), the fire is lit and burning bright. Children deserve the opportunity to live and survive the diagnosis of cancer. Period. In addition, we are so honored to have a bill named after Alexis. The Alexis Agin Identity Theft Protection Act of 2013 was introduced on July 18, 2013 by Congressmen Johnson and Becerra in a bi-partisan fashion. Please urge your representative to sign on as a co-sponsor of HR 2720. You can view the 1 minute bill introduction here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tId_X-BxC9I
Life is busy. That is an understatement. In my dreams I wish for 2 weeks to be holed up in the mountains, nothing but books to keep me busy, and a computer to begin the process of writing the book that needs to be written. In the end though, what I truly want is to be able to walk in those footprints that were left years ago, step confidently without hesitation and feel a feeling of connection. Those footprints though will always bring mixed emotions.
And so, as each day passes, it takes us another day further from Alexis, yet another day closer. Soon baby, soon.
Jon, Neely, Alexis, Gabe and Trevor