Dad will be officially remembered by friends and family tomorrow – even though he’ll be remembered by all of us all the time (with blessings to go with the memories). I wanted to write a bit more about the mourning process – and I will – but not today.
Today is my favorite day of the year in Jerusalem. Today is the Jerusalem Marathon! I love the fact that we close down the city to welcome people from around the world to run through the streets with smiles on their faces to celebrate life! This year 25,000 people ran (2,500 of them from outside of Israel). Not all ran the marathon; there were 22 km, 10 km, 5 km, and 1.7 km family fun run options.
This year Jerusalem – and all of Israel – has been facing a lot of terrorist violence in the streets, but that did not stop the marathon. The police and army were out in full force and were a very obvious presence. There is always significant security, but this year I noticed many, many more visibly armed soldiers, rifles at the ready.
I watched the marathon at Jaffa Gate – yes, that’s right, a number of stabbings took place there in recent weeks, but that wasn’t going to stop me. There were fewer spectators than previous years, I’ll admit, but I did see many tourists passing by on their way to visit the Old City.
I saw a lot of beautiful things today – in no particular order:
- Blind runners were linked to guide runners so they could participate
- Runners ran for causes and happily ran together with friends
- There were runners in wheelchairs and those who couldn’t go on their own power had friends pushing them
- Runners ran with their dogs
- Christians ran with flags of support for Israel
- One man entered Jaffa Gate and took a cross from his friends to run with in the Old City (the cross was made of 1x4s, I think, was about 6 feet tall, and painted black with the phrase “Pick up your cross and follow me” on it.)
- Other Christians handed out red roses as remembrances of those who died
- At one point I was surrounded by a group of IDF soldiers who were passing by Jaffa Gate and at the same moment, a group of runners from a particular soldier corps ran by. I’m not gonna lie – that was a gorgeous sight to behold!
(Link to my video – a few seconds of the marathon, for atmosphere [I hope it works. It’s my first uploaded video ever!])
Last year, I had a meaningful experience at the marathon. I had some self-doubt about the direction I was going with my life and just crested the stairs as I arrived at Jaffa Gate, the music overwhelmed me with the lyric “Don’t you worry, don’t you worry, child. Heaven’s got a plan for you.” Turns out there was a plan.
I wondered what the music would bring this year. The DJ was the same after all. I have to say, I feel bad for the poor guy. He probably arrived before dawn to set up and then spent the entire morning playing music and calling out “AAAYYY, OOOHHH!!! AAAAY, OOOHHH!!!! BOKER TOV, YERUSHALAYIM!!!! EIZEH YOFEEEEEEEE!!!!! KOL HAKAVOD!!!!!” I’m surprised he doesn’t get laryngitis.
I was waiting for a friend to pass by who was running the 10K. The DJ played a remix of “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson and I knew my friend, who is a fan of Michael’s music, would arrive within a few minutes. And I was right!
The DJ played David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” – “If you say run, I’ll run with you.” Since David Bowie recently died of cancer, I felt like it was a moment for my dad – even though he was not a fan. Another reminder of my dad was seeing the business owners around Jaffa Gate. They just did what they normally do: drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. Dad would have been very comfortable indeed with those guys.
I meandered around a bit longer and I thought to myself, “The music was better last year.” I hadn’t even finished the thought, and guess what? Swedish House Mafia, “Don’t You Worry Child.” And it starts like this:
There was a time
I used to look into my father’s eyes
In a happy home
I was a king, I had a golden throne
Those days are gone
Now the memories on the wall
… And my father said, “Don’t you worry, don’t you worry, child…”
And I smiled (through a few tears, if I’m totally honest).
This week Israel ranked (again) as the 11th happiest country in the world. The study uses several guidelines and benchmarks to support the findings, but I think it only takes coming to Jerusalem on marathon day to see that this is true. No matter what happens, we choose life.
In the end, this did turn out to be a bit about Dad, but I’d like to think it was more about the ability to celebrate life and be joyful in the moment.