Running on Brush Hill Road

The Sun rising over the banks of the Cumberland River on Brush Hill Road

The Sun rising over the banks of the Cumberland River on Brush Hill Road

My grandmother Mabel used to say “Men sweat, women perspire.”

Thankfully, Grandma Mabel never saw me after a summer run – she would have been horrified. I love summer running, although it makes me a sweaty mess. If I keep my running on track (or even kick it up a few notches) during the summer, I am pleasantly surprised by my running achievements in the fall, when I don’t have to deal with heat and humidity.

Recently, I started back on my summer routine of morning runs in Inglewood, my Nashville neighborhood. I adore sleeping, which makes it a challenge to pull myself out of bed at 5:30 am. But I throw on my running clothes, grab water, and am out the door before I’m fully awake. To a non-runner, it might seem crazy.

I do it because I am so richly rewarded for rising early.

The air is cool from the night and the grass is covered with dew. Best of all, most of my neighbors are still tucked in their beds and (except for a few other crazy runners) I have the streets to myself. If I time it just right, I see the sun rise over the banks of the Cumberland River – an orange orb glowing through the trees and onto the rooftops.

I share the morning with the neighborhood wildlife – bunnies, squirrels and birds. Bunnies scatter when they hear my footsteps, their puffy white tails bobbing as they dart away.

Inglewood is a quiet neighborhood of older homes – my morning runs give me a chance to notice lovely homes and lush landscapes that I otherwise miss in the busyness of my daily life.

A few blocks away, Brush Hill Road is one of my favorite Inglewood streets. High up on a steep bank along the Cumberland River, some of the homes there were originally fishing cabins, but these days most are spacious, beautiful and, best of all, unique. One of my favorite homes features its own water wheel, which I appreciate because the sound of the falling water is so refreshing on a hot morning. Giant metalwork sculptures are hidden from view behind another neighbor’s overgrown hedge.

A few years ago, I noticed a tiny older woman walking her beagle on Brush Hill Road in the mornings. In my mind, I started calling her “The Lady on Brush Hill Road.” After seeing each other several times, we started exchanging pleasantries. Over time, the pleasantries turned into conversations.

She told me about raising her son on Brush Hill Road and how his friends gathered at her home in the winter to sled down the hill in front of their house. Her son is grown now and moved away, but her smile brightened when she shared those cherished memories.

I noticed she wore a hospital mask but (because I’ve lived in the South so long) didn’t ask about it. After several conversations, she told me that although she never smoked a day in her life, she suffered from COPD and got out early on summer mornings to make sure her beagle had his walk. I told her my husband also suffered from COPD and was listed for a lung transplant at Vanderbilt – that we hoped his call would come soon. I told her how much I admired her for getting out every morning to walk, for her beagle and for herself.

Because I live with Richard, I know how challenging it can be for someone with lung disease to exercise – especially outdoors during the Nashville summer. Breathing with COPD has been compared to breathing through a partially-blocked straw, but lungs thrive on exercise, even when the lack of full lung function makes that exercise challenging.

As most of you know, Richard’s call came on August 5, 2011 and he received the “gift of life” in the early hours of August 6th. While he was in the hospital, I stayed in a hotel near the hospital and after he was released, we stayed at a hotel downtown. It was over a month before I returned home.

Soon after returning home, I was able to get out for an early morning run and there was The Lady on Brush Hill Road, waving at me excitedly.

“I haven’t seen you – is everything ok with your husband? I’ve been worried!”

I told everything was great with my husband, that he had his lung transplant and was now recovering at home. She told me she’d been praying for him and was relieved and happy to know he was doing well. We hugged there in the middle of the street as I thanked her for her prayers.

Post-transplant, Richard was required to wear a hospital mask out in public for the first few months (now he only wears one if he’s at the hospital or traveling by plane). Our friend David found a website that sells hospital masks in fun fabrics. Richard orders several at a time and brings them to the newly transplanted patients he visits at Vanderbilt, so he usually has a few stashed away. He gave me a special one for The Lady on Brush Hill Road – one decorated with little paw prints, for her beagle.

When I gave it to her, I told her it was a gift from my husband – a person she prayed for, although she’d never met him.

It’s a rare and special thing to receive a gift from someone you don’t know, but it’s even better when it’s the gift of prayer.

I hope I see her soon.

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