Refill with Randy – Stand in the gap when others are overwhelmed

By Orleans Hub Posted 4 June 2023 at 8:00 am

Good morning! Grab your favorite cup. Fill it up. And let’s start this week right by joining Randy as he remembers a friend’s kindness during a time of crisis and talks about what it means to stand in the gap for someone.

There are a few things I want to mention up front today. First, I would like start by saying thank you to all who have taken the time to drop me a message on FB or introduce yourself to me out in the community. I am grateful for your feedback and hope to connect with more of you over time. Second, I would like to note that today’s article follows up two previous ones from March 12 (click here)  and April 23 (click here). And lastly, I wanted to note that I am writing this on May 30 which is significant because it was eleven years ago on this day when my mother lost her battle to brain cancer. 

As I wrote about previously, after almost four months of surgeries, radiation, and chemo, which only worked to slow down the inevitable, my mother went to The Aurora House (a hospice home in Spencerport) to spend her final two weeks. It would have been more convenient to stay close to home but unfortunately our own Hospice Home here in Orleans County, the Martin-Linsen Residence, was still under construction.  Thankfully though there was an apartment downstairs at the Aurora House which I was able to stay in for the duration of my mother’s time there.

As the days went by I spent less and less time away as my mother grew weaker. If this was a marathon, as many people had referred to the process of caring for a loved one, I was about to hit the wall. It had been days since I had been able to eat or sleep much and part of the reason was that I didn’t want to leave mom’s side. I didn’t want her to be alone.

And that’s when my friend John “Jack” Burris showed up to stand in the gap. One night he walked in around 10 p.m. and announced  that he was going to stay with mom through the night so that I could go downstairs and sleep. I knew it would be no use protesting so I did just that and, as it turned out, his timing was perfect because mom ended up passing away that next day and, thanks to being able to sleep, I had enough strength to deal with it better.

Now jump ahead to September of the same year. I had written previously about how I had begun running and eventually finished the Niagara Hospice Half Marathon in 2011. It just so happened that the morning before mom passed I had signed both myself and my wife Sheryl to run it in 2012. (Quick note to any husbands reading this… I do not suggest signing your spouse up for a 13.1 mile race without her knowledge unless you can blame it on making an emotional decision like I did.)

Well, long story short, I actually tried to run in the Strawberry Fest 5K that next week and ended up on an ambulance about the 2-mile mark for what they thought was a heart attack. Thankfully it turned out to just be the result of adding physical stress to the mental and emotional stress I had been under for so long and my body said no more. This was when I went on sabbatical and at times tried running again but could not train the way I needed to by the time September rolled around. And that’s when I called on Jack once more to stand in the gap and run the half marathon in my place.

Up to that point he had never ran that kind of distance but, just as I had run in memory of my friend Matt Jones the previous year, he agreed to take my place and run for mom.

I will never forget that day, and only partly because my wife won’t let me forget how I signed her up and then didn’t even run it myself. No, I will always remember Jack using every last effort to get across the finish line and then immediately taking the medal, putting it around my neck, and saying “This is for mom.”

Jack and I have had many adventures together since that time, whether driving to NYC to take care of my sister after her breast cancer surgery or working together on the Hands 4 Hope Street Ministry Truck, but it was his initial willingness to literally stand in the gap when I needed it most that forged the friendship that I am grateful for to this day.