Followers of this blog will be aware that I have dedicated my efforts to Eric Todd , one of the journalism interns from the U of Minnesota who performed well for our media center operations during the 2015 National Senior Games held in the Twin Cities. Eric posted early this year that he had stage 4 cancer, and I was compelled to join TeamEric and give him a shot in the arm in his battle. As it turns out, he is now my biggest cheerleader. (See blog entry about this here.)
As my big race at the 2019 Nationals in Albuquerque approached, the news became more somber as successive treatment options and trial procedures failed to stem the progress of the disease. My heart was heavy as I trained, and then ultimately completed my 1500-meter power walk race. Before the race, I recruited every one of my age competitors to be on TeamEric so he would win no matter who came in first. I was elated and moved when his wife Katherine saw the group cheer video on FB and sent me a simple but powerful appreciation.
This past Monday, after I touched down in New Orleans for a week of LSU alumni activity in Baton Rouge, Katherine posted the message I hoped never to see – Eric’s soul had taken its flight. By coincidence, I had breakfast at the Camelia Grill with my friend and three-times assistant Mary Johns, who also got to know Eric in 2015 – I cropped our 2015 team photo to show me and Mary standing next to him to show here. As Mary and I walked out to the street I shared the news from just the day before that Eric was moving into hospice care. Later, I realized that was at the same moment he passed 1,200 miles to the north. Chills.
Eric was a talented photographer and writer, as well as a dedicated father and husband. He was fascinated by space and deeply loved nature, and was a good friend to many. While our time together was brief, I was impressed with him and we kept in touch through Facebook. Then the news.
It just made sense that a guy fighting this damned cancer too damned young in his life should be my inspiration to keep going, and he has been with me in my heart and mind every time I walk. When I felt strong, I told him to get on my back. When I was not at my best or thinking about slacking on my training, he was there to poke me and point forward. I had no excuses compared to the battle he was fighting.
Now, I’ve taken proper time today to mourn and share my tribute. Eric may have passed on, but he will never leave my side when I walk until I cannot take another pace. It is now my responsibility to celebrate his spirit by always giving my best effort. I will always wear the shirt I added “TeamEric” to for every future race, such as the next one I will do at the Huntsman World Senior Games in Utah one week from tomorrow. Eric will be whispering in my ear and pushing me to finish strong. Eric was incredibly brave and finished strong, surrounded by the love of his family and close friends.
My deepfelt condolences go out to Eric’s wife Katherine and everyone who was touched by this gentle man who departed us far too soon.
The Moon Walker will never forget you, Eric.
Watch for a new blog entry from my Utah trip coming soon. Traveling to St. George via Albuquerque – balloons may be involved!