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Mar 22

The Significance of Turning 42 #LiveLikeYouWereDying

There are so many milestones you dread when you mom dies when you’re only 17. There are countless things she has not been a part of, starting with my high school graduation. One of the worst moments of loss for me was when my twins were born and now, I will be turning the age she was when she lived the last year of her life. I’ve been thinking about this birthday for years, and the significance of turning 42, so I decided to turn it into something ridiculously positive.

The idea was born on a run, as most of my greatest ideas are. I recently told my husband that most people have to “sleep on it” but I need to “sweat on it.”

Here’s the thing – – when someone that close and important to you dies when you’re a young, stupid teenager it can create a deep seeded fear. It’s this fear of dying, of knowing I could die young and with no good reason, that gives me anxiety and panic attacks. Fear of dying is why I obsess about my health, why I can barely fly from point A to point B and why I hold on so tightly to everyone I love. You can see how this is an issue, right?

Holding on tight to my brother and my aunt.

I’m a big celebrator of birthdays. I embrace getting old because my mom will never the privilege of becoming a grandmother or an old woman. I celebrate big because another year of life is worth celebrating. In my mind it’s a miracle to make it one more year without something catastrophic happening. Life should be celebrated and not just every decade. Why not 42?

This year, I sent out invitations to my family and closest friends asking them to celebrate with me. I told them the only acceptable gift is to set an intention: live this year like it was your last.

We already lost a great friend to cancer two years ago. That was a big enough wake up call. And I just noticed we’re all basically wearing the same outfit!

What would you do if you had only one year to live?

Think about it.

How would it change your life? You family’s life? You career? Your home?

Why not have a shot of tequila with your aunt and cousins?

The look on my face pretty much says it all.

The party was even better than I anticipated and I was surrounded by everything and everyone who was important to me. I feel tremendously lucky that although I lost my mom, I have the best father in the world, a brother who I’m super close with, two incredible aunts who are my surrogate moms and countless cousins and friends who all continue to show me why life is still beautiful.

My dad is the best person I know.

I gave a speech that included this quote from The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford. It’s from the oldest living holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer who not only suffered unimaginable brutality in a Nazi concentration camp but also lost her entire family. She said:

“I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times, including my mother, my husband and my beloved son yet life is beautiful and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no time for pessimism and hate.”

So yes, horrible, terrible things like losing your mom happen but still, life is beautiful. In honor of my mother and her last year of life, let’s live this year without fear, anxiety or stress and instead live it UP, live BIG and make decisions based on love and hope and just having a good fucking time. Life is too short not to.

My husband and I do a pretty good job of living life out loud, of setting big goals and attaining them, of traveling the world and bringing the boys on our adventures. How will our lives change this year? I cannot wait to find out.

What one thing would you change if this was your last year?

52 comments

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  1. CARLA

    I adore this so so so so so much.
    (and also wonder how you made it thought the speech without crying. I think id have sobbed a mix of happy and sad tears).

    And Im not doing this right now.
    It’s not that I dont want to—Im just not there yet.
    TODAY ANYWAY.
    Im trying.
    CARLA recently posted…Feeling BURNED OUT.My Profile

    1. vita88

      I was the perfect amount of tipsy for the speech but I did cry at the very end.
      All you can do is try. Sometimes it helps just to have it in the back of your mind, even if you’re not ready to embrace it. xoxo

  2. Angela @ happy fit mama

    And you just made me tear up. Damn Allie. I just woke up!!! Love all of this and need to do more of it. Thanks for the reminder. And now I have Tim McGraw’s song stuck in my head too. I can’t wait to see what 42 brings you! xoxo
    Angela @ happy fit mama recently posted…No Bake Chocolate Chip Oatmeal BarsMy Profile

    1. vita88

      You have done it to me so now we’re even 🙂 And yes, the damn Tim McGraw song but it’s so appropriate!!

  3. Hollie

    This just brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful post. I think we all could use to do more of this and happy belated birthday.
    Hollie recently posted…Shamrock Half Marathon (1:26.49)My Profile

    1. vita88

      Thanks so much Hollie! It certainly helps to put things into perspective 🙂

  4. Susie @ Suzlyfe

    All the feels. We all need to do this, every year. My mom also lost her mother at a young(er) age (than most), so it is definitely something that is in the back of her mind as she ages. It was a very big year when she passed her mother in age. It has also been interesting for our relationship–she never had a relationship with her mother when she was a true adult. That has been very interesting.
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…Five Pieces of Indispensable First Race Advice (Running Coaches Corner)My Profile

    1. vita88

      That is the next thing on my mind – when the boys are older than 17 since, like your mom, I didn’t have a relationship with mine after that. Weird. But, I do have the most amazing dad so we’ll see what happens. It’s so damn complicated!!
      Thank you for sharing your mom’s story with me. Sometimes just knowing REAL people are dealing with this too is comforting. xo

  5. Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    LIfe is indeed precious. I never thought about dying from RA, but since my diagnosis, one of my partners (who is our medical director, no less) has told me multiple times that I’m going to live a shortened life now. While I don’t necessarily believe this, it does make me look a little deeper at how I want to live out the rest of my life.

    It’s too bad we need reminders to live our lives to the fullest. We should do this no matter what. We only get one trip around the sun!
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…7 Tips to Keep Running Without Ruining Your Family VacationMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I honestly never thought about that either as it relates to RA! And yes, it’s too bad we can take life for granted which is why my mom dying at a young age was kind of a gift to me. I ALWAYS have this perspective and am supremely grateful for my health!

  6. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf

    Oh Allie. I totally get this. Similarly, there have been many milestones that have passed that I longed to have my dad there but there are two ages that have always made me anxious to think about – 8 (the age I was when he died) and 42 (the age he was). When Jasper turned 8 it was really weird to be on the other side of that age. When Ed and my brother turned 42, I was really anxious that whole year, expecting something to happen. And now that I’m closing in on that age, im not quite sure how i feel. But I love this idea so much and I love how you are embracing it full on. Thank you for sharing this bc maybe I won’t feel so much trepidation as I move toward that milestone age. PS your face in that photo doing the tequila shot is amazing.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Hello? Is this thing on?My Profile

    1. vita88

      Oh wow! I didn’t realize your dad was the same age!! I’m so sorry Christine as I obviously know exactly how you feel. I hope this helps you turn your 42 birthday into something positive too 🙂 And I’m also dreading the boys turning 18…but at least they will do it at the same time. Wait…I’m not sure if that is better or worse? Anyway – that tequila shot was disturbing…especially since I had been drinking red wine. One of my cousins finished it off for me…

  7. Jennifer @ Fit Nana

    I love this. I love everything about this. YES! Life is definitely too short to stress about everything (which I can definitely be guilty of) and you just never know what’s going to happen. Live fully and love completely! I’m sure you and your family are going to have a spectacular year and the biggest 43rd birthday bash EV-AH. <3
    Jennifer @ Fit Nana recently posted…MENISCUS SURGERY – 5 WEEKS LATERMy Profile

    1. vita88

      RIGHT!!!! YES!!! Thank you so much!

  8. Paria@momontherunsanity.com

    My eyes welled up with tears from the first sentence…. I love that you asked everyone to list this year like it is their last… Couple of things. Just looking at a picture of your dad, I can tell that he is the best person in the world. It is so obvious in his face it needs no caption. The other thing which I may have said before but I’m not sure…. since losing my aunt suddenly, I leave nothing unsaid. I never hold back on telling someone what they mean to me for fear of them thinking that’s crazy or it’s too much…. I have every conversation with every person that I need to have. If I died this second, there would be no “I didn’t tell this person such and such”…. I’m at peace with everyone in my life… How would I live this year if it was my last… I’d have to think about that, but I generally do live every day to the fullest.
    Paria@momontherunsanity.com recently posted…ImmigrantMy Profile

    1. vita88

      OMG YES! I am so glad you brought that up and it’s exactly why I wanted every important person in my life there because I want to tell them all how much I love and appreciate them. Obviously it goes beyond that but, I always try to tell people how I feel, especially those closest to me. And, thanks so much for saying that about my dad. I would never have survived without him!

  9. Laura

    So much truth here. What an odd feeling to hit the age at which your parents died… I remember seeing my dad go through that we he turned the age his dad died from a heart attack… it definitely puts life into perspective. Such a great theme for your year! I’m not sure what I’d change but I’m going to put some thought into this question… probably more living in the moment, especially with my girls at the ages they are.
    Laura recently posted…Post Race SurprisesMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I love that you have to put more thought into it because that means you are already living such a full and wonderful life – which I knew but glad you know it too. And yes, I think all moms can try being more present with the kids…the struggle is real.
      Thanks so much Laura!

  10. Erin Kreitz Shirey

    Allie, I love this so much!! It is interesting how milestone ages hit us for different reasons. I was curious about the reason for the big 42 party and loved it, as I lhad be birthdays and parties. Love this now even more!!! You make 42 amazing, and inspired many to love loud this year!! Xoxo ❤

    1. vita88

      Aw, thank you so much Erin!!! You are such an inspiring woman and mom and athlete and you live such a BIG life. Never stop!! xoxoxo

  11. Suzy

    Ahhh my eyes filled up and I had to do that scrunchy thing with my nose so that the tears wouldn’t spill over. Your love and appreciation for life is evident in your writing, your sport, your smile, your photos, your everything. When we go through trauma, tragedy, even smaller stressful events, we have two choices, right? Be an asshole, or let our little lights shine. You, my friend, are radiant, and without you, our world would be dull and grey. Thank you for your courage, determination and strength to not be an asshole, and to let your light shine through all this trauma, tragedy and stress you’ve faced. I don’t like making assumptions, but I know that I can in this circumstance: your mama would be so fucking proud of you. No doubt.
    Suzy recently posted…Pregnant and Running: 16 Week UpdateMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Now I’m crying!! Truly, Suzy, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your words mean SO SO much. xoxoxoxo

  12. Carly @ Fine Fit Day

    You are inspiring in every way. I have no doubt that you will live the hell out of this year. I’m sure you inspired many people at your party to truly live this year like they were dying and you’ve definitely made me want to celebrate all the good I can. Big hugs and love to you.
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…Why Social Media Fitness Challenges WorkMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Oh I’m SO glad!!! Thank you so much Carly!! xoxoxo

  13. Kelly

    I could not love this more. It would be fun to revisit everyone at 43 and see who followed through with their intention. Here’s to another year of love, good health, and adventure. Cheers to you, Allie!
    Kelly recently posted…Travel Tips for CouplesMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I intend to do just that!…and I will be checking up on them too 🙂 Thank you Kelly!

  14. Janie

    Loved loved loved this post!
    For the last year of your mom’s life came back to me…..
    Now it is your turn to make 42,43,………………………….the best of the best! I know you will. You make your Mom and Dad proud everyday….there are no words for me to say as your friends have said it all.
    Love you always,
    Janie

    1. vita88

      Love you Janie!!!!…and my mom loved you so much too!

  15. Ana

    Ali! This is amazing! You are amazing ! I don’t know you in person, but reading your thoughts here is almost like knowing you.

    This brought tears to my eyes, whenever you speak of your Mom, it brings me tears. I cannot even begin to imagine the loss of your mom!

    What an amazing celebration of life!! Happy Birthday again!
    Ana recently posted…Lucky Charm 10KMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Just from reading my blog you probably know me better than some people who do IRL! Thank you so much Ana – I truly appreciate your words!!

  16. Lora @ Crazy Running Girl

    Hugs. Happy belated birthday. I love this idea of what you would do if this was your last year to live… it’s one of those things that I want to say I live life to the fullest but I know I get caught up in the everyday doldrums of life.

    1. vita88

      Exactly! Try to not get caught up so much 🙂 It’s the little things.
      Thanks for the birthday wishes and for reading and commenting!

  17. Fiona Jarrett

    Happy birthday! I love your optimistic outlook on life and I’m definitely going to try and remember everything you said here and carry that upbeat spirit with me this week. Thanks! 🙂

    1. vita88

      Thank you so much and I sincerely hope you remember it throughout the week, months and this year!

  18. Aimee

    Happy (belated??) birthday!!! What an amazing gift that you gave to yourself this year. Here’s to you and your adventures!

    1. vita88

      Thank you SO much! My actual birthday was 3/21 but I’m obviously celebrating all year so there’s nothing “belated” about it 🙂

  19. Sarah Canney

    I love that you turned this date that you were dreading into something so incredibly positive! I love the intentions you’re setting. You’re and inspiration!

    1. vita88

      Thank you so much Sarah! I felt like I had no choice but to turn it into something positive and, it turned out better than I had hoped! Now…to keep the positivity alive all year 🙂

  20. Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    Happy birthday! I love the positive, life-embracing approach you took. You are so inspiring – I hope your year is as awesome as you are!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…VO2Max Interval WorkoutsMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank you so much Laura! I really appreciate it!!

  21. danielle

    living it up, squeeze out every last drop of juice.. may this birth day and birth month (and birth YEAR!) be every thing and more. every single moment matters! what an incredibly powerful birthday, message, and sentiment. i just can’t explain how intensely this hit me, i had to wait a couple of days before responding. it really got me, in a whoa kind of way. i read this the same day i got my letter from MD Anderson saying it’s time to monitor my thyroid cancer and i just couldn’t really think about it right that day. now i’m ok and ready to face it, i’ve got my appointment – this will be my 5th appointment since being diagnosed with papillary carcinoma, aka thyroid cancer in december of 2015. half of me wakes jup every day feeling like an idiot for being nervous or scared when things could always be worse, the other half of me wants to squeeze every moment out of life. there are so many feelings, we just don’t know. i want to BE there for my daughter and family. i want to enjoy it all. each day. i feel like i’m living each day like it’s my last ‘most’ of the time… sometimes i’m scared, sometimes i’m aware of how lucky i am. most of the time. i’m always grateful. well except for when i’m lacking serious sleep, then i’m just a whiny beeatch 😀
    happy birthday friend, thank you for the inspiration!
    danielle recently posted…WIR sleep less play moreMy Profile

    1. vita88

      Thank YOU and yes, if you already feel like you’re living in the moment and living BIG, then you are already there!!

  22. Natalie

    The tears are streaming. What a beautiful post my friend and you have such an amazing family!! I can feel the love and joy through the pictures and I know you’ll always remember this party.
    My Aunt (My Mom’s sister) died at age 42 of breast cancer and it was the most tragic thing we had ever experienced. She left behind 4 young, beautiful children and a husband.
    Yes, life goes on and we have to savor every moment. I hold my kids so tight and hope they never get sick of it 🙂

    You radiate such positivity and I absolutely know this is going to be your best year yet!!

    Happy Birthday!! xoxox

    PS: I CANNOT do tequila anymore. I vowed never again after a party maybe 6 years ago. I get so sick and… just no. But wine, yes!! xx

    PPS: Love, love the beautiful details of your party! Makes me want to plan a party!!
    Natalie recently posted…Boston Marathon Training: 6 Weeks To Go!!My Profile

    1. vita88

      Now I’m crying!! Thank you so very much for your words and thoughts Nat, they mean SO much to me. I’m so sorry your family had to go though such a loss but it does make you more aware, more grateful and more loving.
      And I only did about half of that shot – yuck!!! But I did have several glasses of red wine :-)…and maybe a cosmo…
      Love you woman!! xoxoxo

  23. Nellie

    You know I read this on Wednesday and was unable to respond. This was so so beautiful Allie and you deserve to be surrounded by the loves of your life in celebration every single day. Love you to pieces.
    Nellie recently posted…The Grand Return To Hot YogaMy Profile

    1. vita88

      I do know and I love you right back!!!! xoxoxo

  24. Dana

    Happy, happy birthday Allie. I can’t think of a more appropriate and meaningful way to honor your mother’s life and her memory than living with intention the way you do. You are the type of person who exudes love and a passion for life, and that can be (and should be) contagious. I’m so happy to know you and be able to share in your adventures, even through the computer!
    Dana recently posted…The Quote WallMy Profile

    1. vita88

      You are so awesome and I’m so happy to know YOU! Thank you so much for saying this and I can only hope we get to spend time together IRL someday again!!

  25. Sharon Renaudette

    What a awesome piece and so true. I also try to have a “life’s too short” attitude and try not to dwell on the bad, negatives and/or constant worries in life. Thanks for the reminder! Even though bad things happen there will be new beautiful and wonderful things yet to experience. My kids are now teenagers and certainly don’t need me as much as they used too. But, sometimes I fear, if something were to happen to me I wouldn’t be there to help them get through the struggles of young adulthood. It breaks my heart to think about this . So knowing what I know about my own mother and myself, I can tell you, your Mom would be so happy and content about what a strong woman you have become, and your ability to be resilient and what you have accomplished. I can only hope and pray my kids develop this same kind of philosophy because then I will know they will be alright. You are a true inspiration.

    1. vita88

      This brought me to tears Sharon! I cannot thank you enough for writing what you did. I know you are a GREAT mom so I take this to heart. Truly, thank you so much!!!

  26. Tara

    Oh, Alice! You always touch my heart with your passion for life. What a beautiful way to honor your life and your Mom’s life this year. She was such a special woman, words can’t express how super cool I thought she was.I accept the challenge as well!!! Hear me from allll the way over in Avon??? I’ll be hollering Hellos all year while I’m living it up with passion and purpose Happy 42, my friend!

    1. vita88

      I hear you T!!!! And I love you so much as one of my oldest and dearest friends. LOVE YOU!!! Keep me posted on your year 🙂 I want to hear all about it!

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