The Night I Met Bo Johsnon
I was too late. Within a couple of weeks, he had passed. September 28th, 2012.
Have you ever met someone who completely transcends their age? Have you ever had a conversation with a child who is dying of cancer, yet has a better grasp and perspective on life than any adult you have ever met? Have you ever met anyone who has made it his/her life’s work to better other people’s lives…even though they themselves will no longer be alive within a few months?
Neither have I….because I never met Bo Johnson.
There are times in life when you just know you are supposed to do something. I felt this connection to Bo, but I had never even met him. Then I realized that everyone felt the same way I did. People from across the country had heard of Bo and his story. The entire Door County area was decked out in orange, supporting his fight with leukemia.
The integrity with which this young man lived his life was astounding to me.
I watched the public ceremony via the internet. I cried several times listening to his mother Annika tell stories about Bo. I cried watching his young classmates pay tribute to him via songs and stories. Like many cancer victims, Bo wanted people to celebrate his life and continue his motto of paying it forward. Always doing more for others, placing himself second.
I am not going to talk about the details of my failed attempt to run 100 miles at Door County. The significant factor of the run was the amount of attention and buzz we generated for Bo’s Foundation. Everyone was talking about Bo, and it was one of the most incredible days of my life.
During my trip to Door County, I met several people who knew Bo. First, I met Heather. She was Bo’s babysitter since he was five years old. She followed me throughout the night of the first 50 miles. Honestly, I felt like I had an Angel on my shoulder all night. Her selflessness and passion for Bo was unmistakable. She was real. She took care of me like I was one of Bo’s best friends.
Just before leaving at 9pm on my epic journey, Heather whispered to me, ‘Bo will make himself known. Something with the number 28will be significant. Trust me.’
As I made my way to Juddville – mile 80 for me, 28 on the course, I was completely cooked. My vision was blurry, I had thrown up multiple times, had diarrhea, and could not take in any calories. I entered the aid station and found Heather. The medic quickly sat down next to me and tried to get my pulse. It was faint at best. Blood pressure? Nope. That wasn’t reading either. I was severely dehydrated and in a bad way.
I started crying. I felt like a failure. I had let everyone down. Heather knelt down beside me and told me something I will never forget. ‘I told you Bo would make 28 special. You are at mile 28 on the course. He feels you have done enough for him. Bo would love you and what you did today.’
I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop shaking. I didn’t realize how much I was invested emotionally until that moment. I had felt his strength all night – and now it was gone.
I had this feeling though, that he was sitting next to me, smiling. After running 80 miles through his backyard, I know I met him. He was running next to me for several miles through Sister Bay. I remember the moment. I was alone, about a mile from Johnson’s restaurant when I said out loud, ‘I am here for you brother. Give me some strength to continue this thing.’ – I was overcome with chills…and I started hammering. We were both smiling.
That is what I will remember for the rest of my life, the night I met Bo Johnson.
As I waited for my Dad to finish the 50, I had the honor of meeting Bo’s best friend. He looked up at me and I asked him how he was doing, to which he replied, ‘this week has been pretty tough.’ I shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure to meet him. I told him I was sorry to hear about Bo’s passing, and that I would be thinking about his friend quite a bit. Both of our eyes became glassy. I wanted to hug that boy and take away all his pain. I hope Bo’s words carry that young man through the tough times.
Thank you to everyone who helped me through the night. I will forever be grateful. Thank you to my wife who once again held down the fort at home while I was gone. I love you.