When Running Killed My Son, How Could I Stand to Run Again?
Every time I open my closet door, my running shoes stare up at me, reminding me of the day my son Steven’s life ended—and with it, my hopes, dreams and willingness to return to the sport we both loved.
It was a perfectly ordinary morning: the day’s heat had yet to settle over Singapore and as was his habit, my son Steven arose early to get in his conditioning run before he had to get ready for work. Steven had just gotten his dream job after completing university and was looking forward to getting his own place.
The last thing he did before leaving for his run was to grab the Tai Sui amulet key chain I gave him on his first day of work to help him avoid obstacles and setbacks as he set off on his ambitious career path. But this morning, I waved goodbye casually as he walked out the door of our neighborhood home at 5:30 a.m.
Who influenced Steven’s passion for running? I admit that I am to blame! I ran while at university and I even met Steven’s father while taking part in a marathon, so you might say that running became a family affair over the years.
When Steven was young, we loved to exercise together. As a teen, he was too embarrassed to run with his mum — but he outgrew that. I liked to tell people that our lives were idyllic.
There’s a knock on my door
At first, I thought that Steven had returned. Then, I realised that this was too soon — and why knock when he had taken the house key? I opened the door to find a policewoman carrying the amulet in her hand.
My mind simply couldn’t grasp what she was saying: that Steven had been struck by a car while out on his run.
“No,” she said, “he’s not in hospital.” She let the words sink in for a moment. My son, I realised, was gone.
When I learned that the man who struck Steven with his car had been repeatedly arrested in the past on drink-driving charges, my grief so overwhelmed me that I must have passed out, because the next thing I remember was being given a glass of water.
Everything rushed back into my mind. This was no dream.
How will I survive this?
Days passed in a blur as my husband and I buried our beloved, only child at the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium where Steven’s ashes are now interred.
Our boy’s running club friends remained a reassuring presence throughout those dark days and eventually, I stopped crying and grew angry. How could a man who had been repeatedly arrested be freed time and time again and turned lose on an unsuspecting public?
The neighbourhood women who were my running companions urged me to re-join them for our regular Nature Park jogs after a respectable amount of time, but I couldn’t bring myself to put on my shoes, much less think about running.
Would I forever be haunted by the thought of Steven’s death as he went off on an innocent run that had become such a joyous daily activity? My despair was just too deep.
I find hope at last
Maisie, one of my running cohorts, arrived at my front door on a day that was fairly close to the first anniversary of Steven’s death. She wasn’t there to insist that I come out for a run with her — or even a walk, for that matter.
She wanted to tell me about Singapore’s Child Bereavement Support network — a place every parent can come to find consolation and meet others who have lost children of all ages.
At first, I wasn’t receptive, but she was persistent — even promised to leave me alone if I would just go to one meeting after visiting the CBS website. Anything to get rid of her, I thought, and so on that day, you might say I began to learn how to live again.
Thanks to this amazing organisation, I was able to start remembering the wonder that was Steven — his laugh. His kind heart. His clever sense of humour. And when Maisie again came to my door — dressed in her a favourite Great Eastern Women’s Run shirt that had been washed so many times, I could barely read the date! — I couldn’t turn her away. She had done too much for me.
I dug out my own nostalgic GEWR shirt. And I laced up my shoes for the first time in a year. Everything still fit. In that moment, the world seemed to tilt properly on its axis.
In Steven’s name and in the spirit of my beloved boy, I ran again.
Grace T had a promising career in banking before her son Steven was born, and was considering going back into the work force when tragedy struck. Her story is meant to strike a chord with every parent who has lost a child.
The article is contributed by members of the community. All stories are based on real life personal experiences or actual events encountered by the authors and related parties. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Editing by RunSociety