In the early hours of Saturday morning, when Colleen Vahey is exhausted, and feels like she can’t run any further, she’ll think of the one person who is no longer here – her father Thomas Shevory. And she’ll put one foot after the other, dedicating that run and this year’s Ruck4HIT to him.
“When I’m doing this, I’m always thinking about my dad,” Vahey said, following a training session earlier this month.
Colleen lost her father in February at the age of 73. He had been rushed to Cape Cod Hospital after he fell and hit his head while walking into a store. While there, medical personnel diagnosed him with Covid-19.
A registered nurse who has worked for the Hyannis VA Clinic the past year, Vahey made the difficult decision “to take him home with hospice who were phenomenal. He had a week at home, and he ended up passing away.”
How has Vahey coped with that loss? By training for the Ruck4HIT, surrounded by people who are giving of themselves for a greater cause. “I feel around the same time that he passed, I started running with these great people before and after work,” she said. “I could be coping by hitting the bar after work and getting drunk at ungodly hours, but I feel like my dad’s spirit has been with me pushing me along.”
Vahey, who will be running her first traditional Ruck4HIT this weekend with Team ShamRuck – she ran last year’s virtually – said the past few months have “really reinforced to me how important it is to do for others.”
She will be running with several of her colleagues at the VA who have been supportive of her following the passing of her dad, who served in the National Guard. “In this time of loss, it is amazing how kind people are. The people I work with were so incredible to give me time off to grieve. I came back to gifts and gift certificates. It was so touching,” she said. “These are not just the people on my Ruck4HIT team. They all have been so wonderful to me, and I felt like they made me feel like I needed to take care of myself.”
It’s strengthened the bond between her, her colleagues, and her Ruck4HIT teammates. And it’s taught her several critical life lessons.
Among the first is the importance of giving back, especially “to anyone who is suffering in any way,” she said.
And then there’s this: “It makes you feel that life is pretty short,” Vahey said. “I used to work two jobs, but after losing my dad like that, I realized I used to work so much overtime. I have a daughter in college and another one coming up. I don’t think I’ll be on my death bed saying, ‘I wish I worked more.’ Now is the time to enjoy life.”
Finally, it’s that even though her dad is gone, she can still feel his presence. His spirit will be carrying her when she feels like she can’t go any further. “I know my dad would be proud of [what I’m doing],” she said.
While he was independent, even in his later years, Vahey noted that he “had bad ankles. He couldn’t walk well at all. …The last few years were difficult for him to walk whereas I’m always out running. In addition to thinking about my dad, I’m thinking about the gift of movement. It is such a blessing when you can move and walk and run, especially when there’s so many people who can’t do it, whether they are injured or hurt.
“I don’t take it for granted that I can. It seems like something I want to continue to do as long as I can,” she continued. “The mission statement of this race – for those that can’t – rings true in my heart.”
Visit www.ruck4hit.org to make a donation and support this year’s Ruck4HIT.