26.2 miles of memory

by Hope Chernak

Hope and her dad

On New York City Marathon Day, November 7, 2004, it was my father’s birthday, and he was being rolled into surgery in a last attempt to save his life. He was in stage 4 of lung cancer (the cancer had spread to other parts of his body at that point) and had been suffering for a few weeks. The cancer was undetected as he was being treated for many years with emphysema. The emphysema got worse, and the tipping point was when my father couldn’t breathe when the power went out in my parent’s home during one of the nasty hurricanes that hit Orlando that fall. The loss of air-conditioning put my father’s lungs into shock he was sent to the hospital for treatments, and within a week, the cancer was detected. 

Within just a few weeks after radiation treatments, other aliments started to take over his body. The length of time he was given to live was vague. I remember the doctor saying to my mom, its time to get your stuff in order. A few days later, we had to make a decision about putting my father through a difficult surgery to help ease his pain and give him more time.

We agonized over a few days if we should put him through it. The doctors said the percentage of his chance of surviving the surgery was small and it was even smaller percentage of survival if he didn’t have the surgery. As my father went in and out of lucidity, he asked for us to talk to our rabbi. Our good friends, Rabbi Steven Engel and Cantor Jacqueline Rawiszer sat by my dad’s side and gave all of us comfort and strength to help us to come to a decision. As a family, and with the help of close friends and family, we decided we should try to alleviate as much pain for my father as possible and went for the surgery.

hope2.jpgMy brother packed his bags, and dodged the marathon runners to get tothe airport to fly down to Orlando to be with us. We never anticipatedthe timeline would be too short for my dad’s life, and that his phonecall to my father on the way to the airport would be the lastconversation they ever had. Two days later my father passed away.

November7, 2010 is just a few days away, and once again, this date falls on theNew York City Marathon day. This time, I will be lacing up my shoes torun my first marathon. This time, my mother, Gail, will be the onegetting on a plane. With my brother, David, by her side, they will befor cheering me as I run 26.2 miles through the 5 boroughs of New Yorkin memory of my father, Jerry. I know my father’s spirit still lives onevery day through each of us and in particular, he will be by my side onMarathon Day. November 7th will be a very bittersweet day for all ofus. Happy Birthday Daddy!

I am running with The Running Rabbis on November 7th, and thanks to awesome friends and family members, I was able to raise over $3000.00 for Achilles International.

TheRunning Rabbis are committed to change and believe in the human abilityto influence and inspire others. For more information about the team,please go to www.runningrabbis.com.

Hope Chernak is the Director of Youth and Informal Education at Temple Shaaray Tefila, NYC.

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2 Responses to “26.2 miles of memory”

  1. avatar

    Your dad definitely will be running by your side — as he always is — and so many others will be cheering you on. Run, Hope, run!! xoxo.

  2. avatar
    Debra Sagan Massey Reply November 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    What a beautiful and inspiring story! I will be thinking of you this weekend. Enjoy every sweet step you take in your father’s memory!

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