It rained, it poured and then it rained some more, but at the Big D Marathon in Dallas, Texas, Amy Harmon, Jessica MacDavid and Kari Infantino weathered the storm and completed the race in honor of their husbands. Since meeting at Jessica’s House while seeking grief support last year, the three mothers have forged a friendship outside of the organization and support each other both on and off the racing path.
Harmon, MacDavid and Infantino all lost their husbands to cancer before meeting at Jessica’s House last August. Jessica’s House, located in Turlock, provides support for children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death, free of charge. Looking for a place where their children could learn to cope with such a huge loss, the three women turned to Jessica’s House and in turn found each other.
During their first meeting at the organization, the trio instantly felt drawn to one another.
“We all had similar stories,” said MacDavid. “Our husbands had cancer, we were their caregivers…immediately as we were sharing, we really understood each other and felt a draw because we were all at the same stages and timing of life in our grief.”
As each meeting passed, the three began to share more about themselves, ultimately meeting outside of Jessica’s House. First, Harmon and MacDavid spent an evening together, staying up late and sharing stories, then Infantino joined the pair.
“When we added Kari to the mix, it was, again, someone who knew exactly what we both were going through,” said Harmon. “Since then, we continue to chat all the time and support each other for where we are at that exact moment.”
One of the best parts about their friendship, Harmon added, is that their children are all intertwined ages and love being together. As mothers, dealing with the grief of losing their husbands has not only challenged the three, but their children as well.
“…Having children and losing your partner in life, their father, your husband, is extremely tough,” said Harmon. “Not only are you trying to figure out how to navigate your emotions and feelings, but trying to manage the kids through theirs at the same time.”
Harmon’s late husband, Hank, was a runner before he passed and in 2009 completed the Big D Marathon. When the race came up again the next year, Hank was recovering from a surgery to remove the cancer from his pancreas. Harmon decided to “be his legs and do it for him,” she said, and as she and 20 other friends completed the half marathon for Hank, he completed the 5k with a cane.
This year, Harmon told her new friends MacDavid and Infantino about the race, and the three decided to run the race together in memory of their husbands.
The rainy weather was difficult to run through at times, said MacDavid, but she, Harmon and Infantino likened the difficult experience to the fight against cancer that their husbands endured.
“By mile eight, I was physically and emotionally drained,” said MacDavid. “But, our husbands put on such a long fight for our families that we thought, ‘If they can endure so much pain through cancer, we can finish the half marathon.’ It became so much about them and what they did for us.”
The different stages of weather represented the different stages of the three mothers’ journey through both helping their husbands fight cancer and dealing with the grief of losing them, said Harmon, from the clear sky at the beginning symbolizing their optimistic attitude toward beating the cancer to lightning representing just another setback their families had to go through.
“We mustered up the energy and drive, pulling directly from our husband’s positive attitudes and love of life, and made it to the finish line,” said Harmon. “But, the cool part is, the next day it was 80 degrees. The sun was shining and we looked back and realized we all made it through.”
Completing the race together has strengthened the trio’s friendship, and they all have Jessica’s House to thank for bringing them together.
“Kari, Jessica and I were all meant to be friends. I truly believe that,” said Harmon. “It was in our cards to meet at Jessica’s House and be there for each other. Without Jessica’s House, I don’t know that I would get to know these truly incredible ladies and their amazing children.”
Harmon encouraged those who may be afraid to seek help to take a leap of faith and join the group at Jessica’s House. MacDavid remains thankful for the place that not only introduced her to Harmon and Infantino, but brought her children comfort as well.
“I wish there were more places like it,” said MacDavid. “The bond between us is just incredible, and we thank Jessica’s House for bringing us together and providing a place where my kids can feel that same comfort.”