Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas...at Three Levels

It is unusual for me to buy any photos from big races. Yet, when Brightroom made an offer for a digital greeting card this week, I took it. It is amazing to me how just one simple photo captures so much.

In this photo, I'm about 130m from the finish line at the Sunburst Marathon last June in South Bend, Indiana. Just outside Notre Dame Stadium, I have no recollection of the photographer (for reasons I will explain) though I obviously saw him.

This photo moves me, for three reasons.

First, it just shows the joy of running. While mile 24 had been really tough for me in this warm-day race, I recovered and was feeling awesome as I came to the end of the marathon. I was aware of the setting and absorbing all I could at the conclusion of nearly 5 hours of running. The smile is sincere, the enthusiasm real. It got even more exuberant when I got on the field. I'm deeply grateful to be able to run and, yeah, it shows.

Second, the location was profound. Many of you know my Dad played football at Notre Dame in the 1930s. The shirt I am wearing has his photo on the back and, symbolically, the races at Notre Dame are a way for me to honor him. I can share, in a small way at the same spot, some of his athletic achievements. I wish we could talk about this marathoning thing...as a big, burly football guy, I'm sure he would laugh and laugh, yet be fascinated and proud.

Amazingly, 42 years ago in the fall of 1967, I was at nearly the same spot. Here I am, as a High School Freshman, with my Dad and younger sister Anne before a Notre Dame football game. I guess Mom had the camera...I'm sorry she's not in the photo with us.

That was a memorable trip. We got out of school, drove the 600+ miles from Nebraska to South Bend to watch the Irish play Southern Cal and their newly-famous running back, OJ Simpson. Dad was in his glory all weekend, showing us around, giving us his take on that famous place.

So, no, I didn't see the photographer on race day this June. Instead, I was deep in thought and appreciation of Dad as I ran...it was nearly overwhelming.

As it is this Christmas week. After a year-long battle with cancer, Dad died on Christmas Eve in 1993. It's hard to believe that was sixteen years ago now. Yet all he modeled and taught my sisters and me lives on and lives strong. And each Christmas since, my thoughts go especially to him.

Third, the photo has the Notre Dame Library in the background with the famous mural well known to football fans. On one hand, it is cool to be photographed with a wonderful campus landmark, almost as well known as the Golden Dome.

The mural has deeper significance than just being "Touchdown Jesus" however. As a follower of Christ, it surprised and moved me to be photographed beneath this image. Jesus has his arms raised in a posture which both honors God and welcomes others. I pray my life might do both, in whatever ways possible.

Merry Christmas to you. Thanks for your friendship as we all persevere.


crossn81 said...

Thanks for sharing. That is a great picture!!! Merry Christmas

Backofpack said...

You are right, it is amazing how a simple picture can reflect so much. Your Dad and Mom did a good job of raising you Joe - there are so many things about you I admire. Your intellect, your thoughtfulness, your values and conviction, your love for your wife and family, your boundless enthusiasm and amazing attitude and optimism - they are all evident in your posts, and even more so when we meet. Happy memories of Dad to you, and a Merry, Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Darrell said...

What a very special picture.

BTW, love the "skinny" pants. They are back in style with the younger generation. 8-) I had no idea you were such a fashion maven.

Wes said...

Darrell, you are so right. Joe was a fine looking young man. I don't know what happened to him over the years, but I'm sure his Dad still loves him anyways ;-)

Merry Christmas, Joe, to you and your family.

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing a great story and picture! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

IronWaddler said...

What a great story. Happy Holiday to you and your family, Joe.

Bob A said...

Good post, Joe. I hope your Christmas was a good one and that the new year will be full of blessings for you and full of opportunities for you to be a blessing to others.