When I heard that memorial gifts to the Lexington Komen Foundation in the name of Pyddney Jones were more than $10,000 and already far outpaced those for anyone else, I was not at all surprised.
My friend Pyddney was not a person for half measures.
I first learned that when she came upon me running in circles around the neighborhood. "We can do better than that," she said.
And indeed we did.
I had kind of resigned myself to a mid-40s life of short runs and long walks. Pyddney, a little older and already a survivor of one bout with breast cancer, didn't see it that way. We did it her way, and a couple of years later we ran the Flying Pig in Cincinnati. It was my first marathon, her fifth.
It went like that.
When Pyddney died in June after slugging it out with her third cancer, I volunteered to stand at the entry to the funeral home. I thought it might be nice for people waiting in that long line to see a familiar friend rather than an employee. We lived in the same neighborhood and had many common running friends; there was some overlap with church, work, Komen and even soccer friends.
But probably two-thirds of the people who waited in line to pay their respects that night were strangers to me.
Pyddney, a former librarian and a financial adviser, knew a lot of people, and she liked knowing a lot of people. But it wasn't just a numbers game for her. When Pyddney got to know you, she got into your life. She took older clients to the polls, navigated doctors' appointments with dozens of people terrified and confused by cancer, organized Races for the Cure and soccer boosters, had prom dinners for kids who couldn't afford a restaurant, and knew the best dog trainers.
With her wide reach, Pyddney might have seemed like a natural for politics, but she wasn't. She loved politics and was a passionate and unapologetic liberal Democrat but had as little use as anyone I've ever met for posturing, whining or false sympathy. She had wonderful manners but woe to the person who asked her a question, expecting to hear anything other than what she really thought.
One of the things she thought was that life was for living, despite all the crap it throws at you. She got more than her fair share, but beyond the everyday aggravations that got on her nerves, you didn't hear much complaining. She was a fighter.
Pyddney was a deeply engaged mother who extended her care to her kids' friends and teammates. Her stove didn't boil water fast enough to serve pasta to legions of soccer players, so she bought a new one.
When her youngest child, Murphy, died tragically in his freshman year of high school, Pyddney and her husband, David, weren't ready to give up as soccer parents. Murphy's teammates included children of African refugees who had come to Lexington with nothing. Like her, they'd suffered great loss. Those children became Pyddney's children, and she fought for them and their welfare as ferociously as any mother ever has.
On the outside, this might have looked like a story of an affluent, privileged white person sharing generously with people who were much less fortunate. Those facts are true, but that was never what the Africans were to Pyddney. She loved them, knew them individually and felt strongly that she got more than she gave. At a time when life could have been empty and bleak, they filled her life with energy, gratitude, laughter and purpose. No surprise that the Henry Clay boys' soccer team came to her funeral sporting their jerseys, and that the players were willing, even eager, to add pink to the Blue Devils' blue and white on Oct. 4 to raise money for the Komen Foundation in honor of Pyddney.
Pyddney loved running and she loved hope. So diving into Race for the Cure was a natural response when she first got breast cancer. She wasn't just trying to save her own life; she wanted everyone besieged by cancer to have a better chance.
Pyddney died after shoving more into her 591/2 years than most of us will fit into 80, or however much time we're granted.
When I line up at the Race for the Cure this morning, I'll be thinking about Pyddney: her energy, her life and the huge impact she continues to have on so many, many people. And I won't be surprised that so many other people will be thinking the same things.