In Memoriam: Nick
Article by: Dick MichenerReproduced with permission of the author
Each Memorial Day Monday in the USA, as I sip my morning coffee, someone comes to mind who has had a positive and lasting impact upon my life. Sometimes, this person is a family member or a close friend. At other times, it is someone who briefly touched me and soon departed. That is the case this morning, as I sit on my front porch and peer down a steep mountain grade into a cool and circling mist.
When I first met Nick nearly thirty years ago, he was legendary as an early example of the ways in which running, improved nutrition, and weight loss, all can enhance the quality of life. Nick joined the team in the bank branch at which I was working and, even as he was encouraging me, he was also admonishing me to make the most of the uncertain time which I was granted on this earth. In spite of our best efforts, Nick would explain, in a hearty and jovial way which I am incapable of duplicating, none of us is guaranteed one more breath.
Until he turned forty, Nick was, in his own words, "one fat and greasy Greek," considerably shorter than six feet tall and well over three hundred pounds. Early one morning, he had a talk with his God and decided that it was time, to get in shape to run the race to which he had been called. Enlisting the help of his wife, he began, first to run, and then to embrace what is now termed the Mediterranean Diet, taking his traditional eating habits and modifying them into smaller portions containing fewer calories and fat. He lost 150 pounds and, even though a slow runner, he became active in the running community as well as the larger community.
One Memorial Day Monday, I was shocked awake when I read, in local newspapers, that Nick had been killed in a freak accident early the previous Sunday morning. He had been prudent in doing some hill training, running against traffic on a sidewalk going up and down a steep overpass. That Sunday morning was cool and misty and, just before Nick reached the hump of that overpass, he was clipped by the extended mirror on the passenger side of a truck. That mirror struck Nick in his right temple and instantly killed him. The ensuing investigation determined that no one had been at fault.
Some reporters were tactless enough to ask Nick's widow, if she regretted his decision to become a runner and to improve his health and fitness. If he had not started that process, these slothful and sedentary reporters opined, Nick would still be alive.
Nick's widow, feisty and filled with faith, begged to differ. Nick might still be existing, she replied, but he would not be living. Nick's funeral, and the feast afterwards at his home, became a celebration instead of a dirge.
Nearly thirty years after Nick's death, as I run in my own stumbling way toward health and fitness, toward becoming the person I was created to be, I remember the final words which Nick spoke to me, in the bank the Friday afternoon before his death: "Dick, it's better to fall short of goals, or to take years in reaching them, than to have no goals at all."
Later today, as I haul my still considerable girth up, down, and around some scenic local trails, Nick will be running slightly in front of me. Sometimes, he will inspire me to believe that, someday, I can catch him. At other times, he will point out someone I can touch as I run.
Dick Michener is a runner, a writer, and an Internet business owner, residing on the side of a mountain in Waynesville, North Carolina. USA. Running has helped him to recover from type 2 diabetes as well as life-threatening heart problems. He would be pleased to hear from you at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.