by LUKE SULLIVAN
Grass and gravel crunching beneath my feet, leaves rustling in the wake of my stride, sweat pouring down my face, the finish was mere meters away and I was slowly closing in on the person in front of me—Liam Kelly—my mentor, my friend, my brother. Loss is not something that is easy on the soul. It makes it writhe with anguish, for what has happened cannot be undone.
Running has always been a part of me. Whether that’s running with my teammates or by myself, it’s a way for me to enjoy nature and be a part of something bigger than myself. It has been a way for me to connect with my friends and compete with them. But when Liam and Reece Kelly passed away, everything changed. There were tears, cries, and hugs. We were gathered together in the gym after just hearing the news—Liam and Reece Kelly had passed away in a plane crash. I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. All I remember was being numb, feeling numb. No, this has to have been a mistake. Any minute now they’re going to walk in those doors laughing, any minute now. But that time never came, and it never will. We talked about how it happened, how the plane had gone down, and how only one survived. They were gone, gone like the morning dew after sunrise, gone like fire after water has extinguished its embers, gone like the world when we close our eyes. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, no one did. But what I did know was that these brothers were my brothers, and these runners were my teammates. It didn’t hit me for a few days—the sadness, the hopelessness, the anguish. For some of us it never came, but for some of us, it never left. In the weeks to come, a foundation was started for the brothers— a foundation to help graduating students by giving them scholarships for college, a foundation that would start the first of many memorial Jeep rides and 5K’s, a foundation that started a family— and a family that would start a legacy.
Loss is something that takes time to heal, but sometimes time is not enough. Sometimes you need other people to help heal those wounds. I did. I needed to lean on my friends, family, and coaches for support. We all needed each other, and we were all there for each other. Support is a way for us to become vulnerable with ourselves and others. And sometimes just being there for someone is better than words.
Running has always been a part of me. But it will also always be a part of them, and I will carry Liam and Reece when I run. I will carry their spirits on my back and their souls in my heart. In the short time I knew the Kelly brothers, they taught me how to enjoy myself in high school, how to make friends, and how to be a great teammate. And their legacy will live on: through the plaque at Macgregor Park, through the bench at the stadium, and through the hearts of those they touched. Loss isn’t easy; it never is and it never will be. But with the support of others, with the lessons those lost ones taught us, and with time, it gets easier. For some it will take longer; for others it won’t happen at all. But it’s about how their legacy will live on with us.
The grass was crunching beneath my feet as I closed the gap between Liam and me. I sprinted harder and harder until he finally succumbed to tiredness and let me pull away. I beat him in that race, his last race, his last race. With a smile on his face, he muttered, “I’ve got you next time,” and that was it. That was it.