Monday, January 23, 2012

Pink Heart

A reader, Jana, sent me a poignant email tonight.  She remembered that I had commented about Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers. Jana had read a part of this book that reminded her of me and of Sherry.

You might have noticed that for the past couple of days I have written posts not specific to my cousin, Sherry. I think I just needed a break. As you can imagine, she is never for a moment far from my mind, as I know she is not far from yours.

Jana was referring to a chapter called “Pink Heart.” It talks about how when someone is hurting, you feel their pain even if you are not directly connected to them. It is that pure bond we share just by being human that does not allow us to simply disengage (which would certainly be the easier route) when tragedy strikes. I know you have all felt the pain of what happened to Sherry. I can tell by your comments how her story has made an imprint on your hearts.

You may recall a post a did a couple of days ago about how Sherry’s death made me think about my own mortality and the type of legacy I wish to leave behind. Kristin so eloquently tackles this subject:

I want my normal life to sparkle with the allure of the ordinary and speak to me, just the way it is.  Or if there are some changes to be made, I want to be motivated to incorporate them as I go along.  If I want to travel and explore, I want it to be because my heart is ticking, not because my clock is. I want to be brave enough to say the important things like "I'm sorry, please forgive me," and "I love you, please help me love you well."  I want my heart to be tidy.  

Why is it then, knowing what we know and thinking deeply the way we do, that we all need a wake up call?

A wake up call. Sherry brought this to us in so many ways. Maybe we are more careful when we run. Maybe we hug our babies or husband a bit closer. Maybe we truly grasp the impermanence of life and aren’t willing to let another wasteful moment go by.

Sherry’s death has impacted me in all of these ways.  I am also infinitely sad and regretful for future moments I will never spend with her. I looked forward to hearing about her first marathon.I hoped our family would take another trip up north to Sidney, and Sherry and I would actually run together, something we never did in the past (I was late to the running scene). I just assumed there would be more chances. I just assumed.

My grief is wound up in the loss of this woman and the tragic unfolding of the ugliness and violence that surrounded such a peaceful person’s death. Yet, my grief is also about her family – her children who won’t have their mom present for high school graduations, when they walk down the aisle or when their babies breathe their first breaths. For her sister who was her best friend. For her husband who now goes to sleep at night with his side of the bed cold and empty, reminding him of what is not to be. For her parents who should never, ever, have to experience the death of their youngest child – most especially not in such a senseless, evil and disgusting manner.


Montana Jogger's Presumed Death Still a Mystery












Let’s not sugar coat it. It was as heinous, awful and evil as it gets. I hate those men. I hate them. I see their pictures and look into their eyes and am filled repulsion. My life will not be consumed by anger. No way. They will not have that affect on me. But at this moment, what they did fills me with rage. And I hate them for taking her from us. For hurting her. For hurting every single person who knew her and loved her.

And, I hate that evil is exists. I don’t want to accept it. I’ve always been so innocent and trusting, and now I’m not. It lurks in the dark corners. It is the noise the wakes me up at 1:00 a.m.. It is any car slowing down to ask for directions. It is headlights too close to my rear bumper when I’m driving alone at night.

Yet, when I get scared or lose faith, I turn to the light. The light of all that is good, kind, giving and loving. It is out there, exposing the dark corners. I know it and I trust in it.

Sherry’s body is still not found. I know she is dead because that is what I’ve been told. A tiny bit still holds out for a miracle that I know will not happen.

Rest in peace Sherry. I love you. I wish I had known you even better. And, I’m sorry.

How has what happened to Sherry affected you personally?



  1. I thought about you so much yesterday and about Sherry and how I had to just be strong for her! I hate those guys, too and I hope they pay dearly for their sins!

  2. Beth, Thank you for sharing this post from your heart. And Pink Heart, this is so true! I have never heard of that before but totally agree. It's strange how you can never meet someone face-to-face but feel such a pain and sadness! Thank you for continuing to write through this difficult time. You are a great writer!

    I too had a hard time believe that Evil was real and existed, but it does. I love that you spoke about the light! It's so true! Darkness is around us, but we have a Light through Christ to shine through the darkest of places.

    I continue to pray for you and your family, Sherry's family as well.

  3. I share so many of the feelings that you have, and wish I could take them all away, from you, from Sherry's children, and husband. Thank you though for reminding us to focus on all the good that is there...:)

  4. Pink Heart...yes it is true and what a pure and lovely image..I saw their pictures today...I stared at them until my husband said I should stop. I hate them too and what they did and I hate that what they did is making me doubt the people I cross when I run. I am like Jill and I hope they pay dearly for what they did.

  5. I hate them, too. And I don't understand them at all. Why? Why?

    Thank you so much for being so honest and putting your words down. I hope that writing helps a little.

    A friend's mom asked me a couple days ago about Sherry -- if she'd been found. My friend mother's extended family lives in Montana, although not Sidney, and she is just so saddened by what happened to Sherry. She's in so many people's thoughts.

  6. It's so true... I live so far away but feel your pain and sadness through every word and cry every time. Such a senseless act by those heinous men that is uncomprehendable to those of us who are naive, trusting and look for the good in everyone. I pray Sherry is found so you and sherry's family can have closure. You are right, we all take tomorrow for granted, I know I do. Thank you for your words. I pray you find peace.

  7. I love that quote. It's so true.

    I thought about you and Sherry this weekend when I was running. I was struggling through a "wintry mix" run on an iced over trail and I realized how grateful I should be to be simply be running. Thank you for reminding me of that.

    I am so so sorry for your loss and for this struggle. I cannot imagine how you must be feeling. (((hugs))) But I must say, you are doing an wonderful job focusing on the good, and not letting these evil men win. I hope they pay for this atrocity!

  8. Just as I said I hoped the good wishes from all of us could somehow impact the outcome in a positive way, I'm hoping those wishes could at least ease some of the pain for you and the rest of Sherry's family and friends.
    I can't begin to comprehend the depths of evil and sickness that exists on this earth. But I know the light of goodness and love will always outshine it.

  9. I truly believe that it is okay to hate evil - even my clergy side believes that. I'm glad that you recognize it and refuse to let it take over your life. HOwever, I do believe that out of evil comes good - for example, the run you'll put together for her, the fact that more women are more cautious in their runs and day to day activity and that more people know Sherry and what an amazing woman, mom, daughter, wife and teacher she was.

  10. I still struggle to find words to adequately describe how I feel about the loss of Sherry. I am glad there are those more eloquent than me who can express the whole range of emotions that something like this triggers. I think of her daily, I never knew her, I had never heard of her until these tragic events occurred yet I now think of her daily. Every night before I sleep I ask whatever powers there are in the world to let me carry, for just a short while, the burdens of those that are truly suffering so they might have a moment of respite..

  11. Praying for you and her family this is heartbreaking. Thank God for light!

  12. I am sickened by the thought of those monsters and what they did to Sherry. I still pray for you and all who loved her every night. When I wake up, I hope today is the day her body will come home.
    I got Mile Markers for Christmas and I am really looking forward to reading it. Thank you for being open and honest.

  13. Beautiful.. beautiful post Beth.

    I pray everyday for Sherry, her family and her friends, her students. Anyone and everyone effected by this.

    I hate those men too and I what they have done. I just do not understand how anyone could do something like that.

    I'm glad you are continuing to write. I always look forward to your posts.

  14. There was another random attack here in Maine just the other day. A woman was stuck in her car on the ice and a man stopped and assaulted her, raped her and robbed her. Just as senseless and stupid and evil as what happened to Sherry. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't know why there ever has to be a wrong place. Why can't we just trust that people are good and that nothing bad will happen? I want to do that. I do do that. But these random attacks make me rethink my trust.

    I just don't understand what drives a person to commit an evil like that. I just don't.

    I don't know you, sherry or that other woman but I think of you all daily and hope that justice comes to the attackers.

  15. This is when an eye for an eye seems totally reasonable.

  16. I too have had a heightened sense of awareness of my runs. Yesterday, a car slowed as it came up behind my husband and I (and our dog) on a run. My heart started pounding. I gave my husband a worried glance. I looked the driver in the eye.

    It was a little old lady who wanted to share that she liked my dog. I think I may have overreacted.

  17. This hurts my heart my they I can even express in words....I think about her and her family everytime I run and I too have that small but false hope that she is alive somewhere...these things are so hard to wrap our minds around why, why, why,.....I can say you have a fantastic heart, and even though I have never met you or your family in person the thought of flying across the country to give you a hug has crossed my mind 1,000 times. We will continue to pray for Sherry and family and you and yours....and for the good in this world that it will far outweigh the bad!

  18. I definitely find myself looking at things differently after hearing Sherry's story. I think it's impossible not to be affected. I admit that when I see your name now, my first thought is of Sherry... maybe this is good in some ways, to allow her memory to live on. I will always be more careful, and more grateful every time I return from a run safely. Continued thoughts for you and all those touched by Sherry.

  19. My heart breaks for Sherry and you and your family. Now I refuse to run alone unless it's mid-day and light in a crowded place. I admire your courage to write about all of this, your grief and pain, I didn't know her but I can feel it, it's palpable.

  20. Sherry crosses my mind a lot. I run on the treadmill in winter, but once March/April rolls around, I am back out on the roads and the Mickelson trail. I run along a truck route, it has always made me nervous, now I will really be observant. I refuse to change my life because of the evil out there, and it is probably closer than I want to admit. I will however change the way I run. I will vary my time and routes. I will notice any strangers that don't belong. And I am considering getting a concealed carry permit. Never crossed my mind before. But really, what good is a cell phone or pepper spray? I haven't made up my mind yet, but honestly I am considering it.

  21. I find myself thinking about you and Sherry, my girlfriends that run alone in the dark, my family more than usual. I think of my friend I lost to tragedy and share your hurt in knowing they won't come back, hoping they will, and how the lack of a body prevents closure and healing. My husband and I talk about safety and false sense of security. We plan runs with our girlfriends so they don't run alone.

    There is so much bad in the world, but there is so much good as well. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  22. My husband went out and bought me pepper spray the moment I shared Sherry's story with him. It has affected me, and I think about her every run I go on. Something like this changes people, even those (like me) that did not know her personally. The world is scary, and even though there is SO MUCH good in this world, you can never discount the evil that lurks in the shadows.

  23. I live in a rural area. Sherry's story makes me extremely weary of running these back roads alone in the early hours of the day. I also think about the possibility of not being able to see my kids reach various milestones in life. That thought is probably the scariest.

  24. This is such a horrible story... if only it were just a story. I think about Sherry anytime I am alone somewhere living my life. Hate is such a horrible thing but at the same time a valid emotion. Those awful men will eventually have to pay for their actions when they meet their maker - that needs to be the only thought to have. Live in the light of what Sherry would have wanted you to do, live to the fullest life can give. And give to others like she and our maker would want us to do. Sadly, this is the reminder that is left in this situation but even through the hate it should be the way to overcome it, to move past it and not give it a second glance. That is where we find the good in a terrible situation. Dare I say that she was chosen to deliver this message to us - I know that may not be the most comforting thought but just think about what an important task that is. I have had some significant loss in my life and that was the only way I could put perspective on the awfulness and a reason to place on why this would happen to such a good person.
    I wish I could give you a hug Beth.

  25. How can you not hate them? I don't have the vocabulary to express how vile, evil, monstrous they are. Strength to you for not letting it consume you. I don't know that I would be that strong.

    Vanessa and I have had some serious talks about our running "protocol", as it were. We both run with headphones. How safe is that? Most of our routes are through neighborhoods or on established trails, but our riding routes are farm roads; pretty remote except for other cyclists and light traffic.

    We've already experienced random violence: Vanessa and three others were accosted by man with an axe, of all things, when he pulled over angry that they were taking up so much of the road. Fortunately nobody was hurt, and he was prosecuted...but even in our quiet corner of the country, you absolutely can't be too careful.

    This tragedy was a catalyst for us. We will seriously be reevaluating how we train.

  26. I have to say I am so glad you have this outlet right now--it is cathartic, even if you don't realize it now. It also honors Sherry's life and the light that she was.

    I think about her/you quite a bit. Just last week I was running alone and my thoughts turned to her and I got angry about whatever she went through. It's just so wrong. But like you said, the anger isn't what we need to focus on, it's the lessons to be learned. Thanks for keeping this in the forefront.

  27. What happened to Sherry has been both angering and eye-opening.

    I'm shopping for a knife, and user-friendly pepper-spray. One to carry in my gym bag/purse, and one to carry out on runs.

    It's also made me more determined to alert gym employees when there's some jerk is acting suspicious and creepy, which happened recently for several days in a row. I'm waiting for that D-bag.

    Though there may not have been anything she could've done at the time to defend herself. Sherry's story has made me realize that if a situation arises, and there is a chance to fight back, I need to be prepared for that.

  28. I am sorry for your pain.Thank you for sharing your words about this evil story. Sherry's story as made me think of the safety precautions I need to take before every run.

  29. That was beautifully written. It's made me think twice about running alone. I never do, but probably never will. It's made me think about how short and precious life is and to not take people for granted.

  30. Sherry's death has affected me in many ways, and I am sorry to my core for the pain her death is causing those who love her. One direct influence her death has had on me is I now turn on the live GPS tracker in my runkeeper app on my iphone. My husband logs into mapmyrun and can now track me on my runs live. It's not fool-proof, but it's something extra that adds peace of mind to my husband and to me when I am out on a long run for a few hours by myself. It's a pretty cool feature and I bet there are other running apps that can do the same thing...worth looking into if you don't already do something like this.

  31. Your brave to share all of this, I honestly hope it helps you heal.

  32. it has affected me in every way imaginable.

    When I start my run at 430a I look around and make sure nobody is out there waiting. I never take my keys with me so I make sure there is nobody around when I hide my keys b/c my family is in the house.

    I look at the cars and houses and more keenly aware.

    I pay much closer attention to how long Karen is gone when she is running and will sit on the front porch waiting for her if I think its been too long.

    stay strong

  33. I hate that evil like that exists too. I don't even like watching movies with violence in them b/c I truly love all people....well I guess not all, I hate those guys. I don't understand why these things happen. I am so sorry for you and for sherry. I too hope there's a miracle and that she is ok.

  34. I think about Sherry every day! I do news searches daily, looking for updates. I think about you Beth, and Sherry's family. It's impacted my running, as I'm a predawn lone female runner. And I've been running in my neck of the woods before dawn for over 15 years, and have been taking my safety for granted. This is what Sherry's tragedy is teaching me. For the first time since I started running (high school!) I carry a knife and pepper spray. I'm considering buying a treadmill. Yes, Sherry's tragedy has effected me permanently. RIP sweet lady! I hope you are returned to your family soon.

  35. Thanks for another wonderful post. All your postings about Sherry and what happened have impacted me a lot. Namely, I have talked about it to my Mom, who would go walking every night, with no phone, mace, or even a note as to where she was. Now she calls my Dad at work to let him know, and she carries her phone. We've discussed it at length. I've not been outdoors running much lately, but when I do, even though it's in my neighborhood, I'll be taking my phone, and taking out my mace in the wooded areas. I've always been hyper aware, but much more so now. Sadly, it seems to take something like this to make us more aware. I hate the fear factor in it, but I will pray in faith as I leave the house.

    Thank you for your honesty throughout this whole experience. We are all behind you!!

  36. Unfortunately we live in a fallen, evil world. I do not understand how anyone could even think about hurting another human being. I hope and pray that she did not have to suffer and that she is resting in the arms of our Lord.
    It has touched me in so many ways. It makes me realize that life is fragile, precious and short so live like its your last days.
    I truly appreciate you sharing with us all of your very personal thoughts on thsi very private matter. I hope it gives you some kind of comfort now and in the future.
    Thank you and God Bless you, her family and friends.

  37. I am off to but my road I.D., had a horrible experience yesterday that shook me up and made me think of Sherry, though I don't know what they have decided was her cause of death, I know I was dummy when I went out on my run yesterday. Here I had told you I would take precautions and then did no such thing. Hugs and apologies.

  38. I think about Sherry, her family, you, nearly every day. I keep wondering why anyone would do such horrible things. What happened to Sherry did make me more afraid, but it also made me more aware. I love the idea of the Pink Heart, this tragedy has brought us all closer and made us remember the beauty that is life.

  39. You got it....I hug my darling daughter a bit more tightly and I am more patient during temper tantrums. I would rather be with her in bad times than not be with her.

    I am also more cautious on my road runs and less trusting, like you. My run over a week ago had a few hitch hikers that usually aren't there. I found myself trying to stay clear and looking back to make sure we were going opposite ways. And that car that made me jump a mile high.

    You are an incredibly strong woman and Sherry will be on all of your runs now....she will be there when you need her the most. Trust me.

  40. Oh yeah....and I keep hoping for a miracle much as I wish I could have one more hug from my Dad.

  41. I used to live in North Dakota (a different part) and it was the most friendly place on earth. Or maybe it was my naïvety. To think that what happened to Sherry actually happened to anyone makes me ill. I ache for those who love her. The whole "not fair" thing keeps rattling around in my head. It's just so not fair. Bad things aren't supposed to happen to good people.

    I haven't been able to muster the guts to run outside since she went missing. Partially because of the weather, partially because I'm just plain freaked out.

  42. Pink Heart indeed...what a great phrase to express compassion for one another. Because honestly, Beth, I have shed many tears over your Sherri. She yet again was in my thoughts and outloud prayers. I prayed again for comfort for her family and also for her to be found.

    As I was driving and praying, I wondered aloud to myself what on earth possesses a person to kill someone?? I mean, ok, I get the self-defense thing, but just a random killing?? I just don't understand WHY. And maybe it's the mere fact that I (and most people) can't make sense of senseless killings that keeps up from being that kind of person.

  43. I think about Sherry a lot. I'm glad you have posted so much about her on your blog otherwise I would only know about her through the news and she would have been another news story. Your connection with her and your description has made her very real to me.

    On Monday morning I didn't run a loop that takes me through a area of high density apts in Boulder - i was worried about running early morning and there not being many people around. I did an out-and-back instead.

    It makes me incredibly sad that she is no longer here with her friends, family and loved ones. It's not fair.

  44. I think of Sherry often...on every single run. Such a senseless tragedy. She sounds like an amazing woman and certainly someone we all can relate to. I am now carrying mace, and the comments above make me want to think about adding a pocketknife to my running gear as well. Surely all of the awareness around Sherry will ultimately end up saving the lives of others. I am so very sorry for your loss and sorry that this happened. I will continue to be in prayer for you and the rest of the family.

  45. The Pink Heart - it is so true. I think about Sherry everyday, and am always hoping for some peace and solace for all those who love her. My heart hurts for her, for you and her family.
    I think of the wonderful and giving person you and others in the news have described Sherry to be, and of the strength, positivity and honesty you have shared in your posts - and despite the evilness of the event, my heart is warmed to know that as you have said goodness prevails.
    I do hug my kids and husband closer, we play,laugh and be silly more. I am acutely aware that life changes in an instant.
    Thank you for sharing your memories of Sherry, thank you for sharing what is in your heart - I hope it helps you to heal.

  46. I just wanted to send my condolences to you & your entire family. Since the first reports broke of Sherry's disappearance, I've been following the story and hoping for, first, her quick return home and now second, for whatever closure can come of this event. I wrote about how I feel here,, and I will be hiking a mountain for Sherry this coming Saturday.


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