Ryan Shay, 1979-2007

He died just past the fifth mile mark. He was a newlywed, married fewer months than the number of miles he ran yesterday morning. His last morning. His last run. A young man. An elite athlete. A contender for a spot on the United States Olympic Team. And now gone.

Unprepared. Unexpected. Unimaginable.

You stand in their room, enveloped by silence. You feel their presence, though you know they’re not there. It is the most real thing, but even it is not real. Nothing is. You stare into their closet. You smell their clothes. You see their handwriting on notes left on the counter. You see their coat hanging on the tree. Keys on the hook. Shoes in the corner. Untied. Things needed, but not. Surely they’ll be back soon. But not. There is nothing about such a moment that ever entered your thoughts before. They were just here. Now gone.

When the unexpected of this sort comes to visit, it comes only once, for the one greeted by it never lives unexpectedly again. Not fully. The mysteries and surprises of life are spoiled for you. Good or bad. Oh, you might experience a pleasant surprise here and there, but even then, in some part of yourself, you knew it might happen. Anything can happen. This you know now as fact. And when anything can happen, nothing is ever really a surprise again.

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