A Different Kind of August

The skies were roaring Sunday in Seattle as the Blue Angels made their annual pilgrimage to our summer festival, Seafair. As a third generation Seattlite, Seafair has deep roots in my family and community. As a young boy, Seafair was the highlight of my summers. I still remember strongly encouraging… okay, forcing, my neighborhood elementary school friends to name their bicycle after one of the Seafair hydroplanes before we raced around my col de sac. I’m still proud to have won that race, though my parents were not excited that I etched “Budweiser” into the top tube of my bike!

In recent years Seafair has signaled the countdown to another summer celebration that has captivated my heart, Obliteride. Obliteride became a part of my life in 2015 when my cousin, Jeff, rode around Lake Washington with me.  Abby greeted us, with Jaren and Miri in tow, at the finish line. She was so inspired by the uplifting event that she vowed to ride the next year even before we even left the Friday night party! When I took to the bike a year later, Abby wasn’t there to ride with me, but a love so big and so encompassing from our community filled in as best as it could to lift me up and keep me pedaling forward. It was awesome.

Over the years, Obliteride has been one of the most heartening, hopeful and agonizing events on my calendar. Obliteride pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to face life head on and turn my grief into action. Most importantly it helped me continue to feel the deep connection to all of you. Obliteride is a community of communities and it has been amazing to see how our community has made a genuine impact raising over a hundred thousand dollars to cure cancer faster. Thank you.

This weekend I will not be riding Obliteride.

Instead of heading to Gasworks park on Friday night to kick off the weekend, I will be heading to a San Diego synagogue with Abby’s family to cheer on her cousin Rachel’s son, Noah, as he becomes the first of his generation of young cousins to have their Bar Mitzvah. I expect to have some good cries this weekend just like I have on my bike many times in early August these past three years. There will be happy tears, full of pride to see Noah take his place in our community. And joyful tears, as I introduce Miri to many of her cousins for the first time. There will be sad tears, wishful that Abby could celebrate her cousin Rachel and her family. And there will be mournful tears that Abby can’t be there to celebrate her own childrens’ b’nei mitzvot when those momentous days arrive.

I’m thankful that in some way, Abby has made it easier for this old dog to learn how to change direction as life unfolds. I will miss riding my bike this year with so many kindred spirits. And I’m thankful the great work we started continues with riders like David Ignacio, Mark Gottschalk, Jared Brown, Mark Kane and many more who continue to wear their radiant orange kits and inspire new riders to join up and do good. I wonder what future Augusts will look like for me – if this year’s change inspires new ideas and new hopes.  Where ever you are this Obliteride weekend, I hope you feel a connection to Abby’s spirit and her community that fills you up and reminds you to live each day to its fullest.

Love and healing,

Justin

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