Her spirit lifted me and I knew what it meant to fly

But he’s striving and driving and hugging the turns.

And thinking of someone for whom he still burns.

-“Going the Distance” – CAKE

I started volunteering with Lori Michelle and Running on Love because I loved the concept of running in honor or memory of anyone you choose. This year, I chose to run for my grandmother, who passed away in July 2013.

Rosemary Andreano was the kindest, most hard working woman I have ever met. A German farm girl, she met my grandfather when he was stationed in her hometown of Kalida, Ohio during World War II. They got married and moved to the city of Paterson, New Jersey, way different than the farmland she was used to! She raised 7 children while working as a teacher of English, Spanish, and Latin. They did not have a lot of money, but they raised enough to buy a house in Totowa.

She loved that home. It became the home where she raised her children and spoiled her grandchildren. The home where she would spend all day on Sundays preparing huge Italian dinner for everyone. The home where she gardened to the end.

During 2012 and 2013, my grandmother developed severe dementia and suffered a heart attack. Someone whose life and career was centered around connecting through language was rendered unable to speak. But she stayed positive and pleasant, and when her time came, Hospice care was able to set up a bed in her living room, with her cat by her side (we’re all cat people in this family!)

There is something really life-changing about dedicating a challenge (like a race) to a loved one. I have not run more than 1 mile at a time in a few months, and I knew I was not on the path to win, but every time I was going to stop and rest I said to myself, “If my grandmother could raise 7 kids I can definitely keep going in this race!” And her spirit lifted me and I knew what it meant to fly.

As I crossed the finish line, I shielded my face with my sunglasses and cried. The act of racing or being active with a dedication or intention this strong is OVERWHELMING. A Running on Love event is the perfect dedication, and the feeling lasts way longer than leaving flowers at a grave.

Melanie Tolomeo

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