Name: Jennifer Garrett-Callaghan
Occupation: Administrative Assistant
Spouse: Jim Callaghan (September 22, 2012)
Children: Twin 16 yr. old girls, Grace and Rebecca, as well as Jim’s four children Kasey, Jesse, Erin, and Tommy.
When Lou first asked me to be Warrior of the Week I declined. I just wasn’t ready to share my story. I guess it’s time, so here it goes.
Many of you don’t know me at all, but I am the fourth child in a family of six, five girls and one boy (My poor father!). Family was always and still is very important to me. Growing up we weren’t encouraged to join any organized sports but were always kicked outside to play. We biked and walked everywhere. I was an active kid but never what I would call physically fit.
As I got older it was important to look good, so as any typical woman would do I went to the gym daily and really worked on staying somewhat fit. I met my first husband just after my 22nd birthday. Shortly after we started dating I began to have health issues. I was always in pain and always exhausted. Doctor after doctor and all they could say at that time was IBS. I married at age 25 and my health issues worsened. I had seen more doctors and received more crazy diagnoses: Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.. I was even told at one point I would never have children. At age 29 I miraculously became pregnant. My girls were born nine weeks early. It was an emergency section because my life was in jeopardy. Three years later I was finally diagnosed with Celiac Disease. It seems I was so bad that the doctors considered the girls miracles. Since the diagnosis and my subsequent lifestyle changes, my health has changed considerably but the damage was done. I have been left with arthritis in many of my joints and I still suffer from chronic fatigue.
I wasn’t in a happy place and life was stressful, but I lived for my girls. Finally, at age 39, I filed for a divorce. The stress of the situation did a number on me emotionally and physically. I ballooned in my weight and the health issues I developed along the way I blame a great deal in part the emotional stress of the time.
After being single for three years, I decided to start dating again. I met an interesting man on Match.com, Jim Callaghan! We chatted online for almost eight months and never met for some reason. After I completely messed up my settings in iTunes and Jim talked me through it, I insisted me meet for drinks so I could thank him. The drinks came on February 22, 2011 and I fell head over heels for him. Exactly one year later, right down to the minute, he asked me to marry him in the same bar where we had our first date. Of course I said YES!
During my time with Jim, I learned about this wonderful world of running. I say it that way because very early on I decided that if this was something he was passionate about I would support him all the way. I started going to races and was blown away by how nice and how supportive everyone was with each other. These people didn’t even know you but it didn’t matter -they were there at the finish line cheering you on. I couldn’t believe that this world had existed and I didn’t know anything about it.
Over the next two years I went to almost every race Jim was in. All the while he kept saying, “one day I will get you to run”. I always laughed at the thought because I have bad knees.
Because Jim was so health conscious I started losing weight without really trying. He kept me active so I started feeling better. At some point he heard about this killer hill workout that he wanted to try. I will never forget what he looked like when he got home after his first Hill run. I thought he wouldn’t be able to walk the next day! He loved it though, and joined a wonderful new family, The Selden Hills Warriors.
We were planning our wedding all the while but stuck in the middle of all the planning I had to have a second knee surgery. The fear I wouldn’t be able to walk down the aisle in my darn shoes drove me full force into my PT. I had a set back or two but those 4” wedge heels were on my feet and I glided down the aisle to the love of my life on September 22, 2012 just a little over a year and a half after meeting him for drinks that first time.
I now had the perfect life. In November of 2013, Jim finally got his wish. I had strengthened my knee enough and he signed me up for the East Islip Redmen 5k. This race should be my “what was I thinking moment”! It was 32* and windy as hell in Hecksher state park. I will never forget hitting the two mile mark and seeing something across the field. It was Jim, walking back to find me so I wouldn’t have to be alone. That damn smile of his and the twinkle in his eyes, saying all along “I knew I would get you in a race” but he never once said it out loud. I was lucky enough to do three more races with Jim before the weather got too cold for me. You see, on top of everything else, I have asthma. I know, right? I am a walking wreck!
2013 was the year of constant trips to the hospital with my mother. We didn’t think she would make it another year. During this time, even though it was so early on in our relationship, Jim and I discussed what we wanted when our time came. We made promises to each other even though we never thought we needed to. Mom pushed through and we celebrated the New Year thanking God she was still with us.
Early on in January of 2014 we decided it was time for a big change. Arizona was calling and we wanted to make it our new home. On January 15th,we signed papers to put the house on the market. We were done with Long Island and the crazy cold weather. That evening was very foggy but we went out to celebrate our new adventure. That was my last night with my love. The next morning he got up very early, kissed me and told me he loved me and went down to do some work, or so I thought. I told him I loved him and I rolled back over and went back to sleep, never giving it a second thought.
You see, Jim and I had a beautiful morning ritual. He got up early and did some exercises in the basement or worked in his office. When it was time for me to get up and ready for work he would wake me with a cup of coffee and a kiss. This morning however was different. Jim never came to get me. I woke with a start at 7:15. I searched the house and he wasn’t there. I couldn’t believe that he would go for a run so I started calling his cell phone to no avail. I franticly texted too, but still no answer. At that point I knew something was wrong. I quickly dressed and located him on our friend finder app, jumped in the car and went to find him. When I pulled up to the accident scene, I knew instantly.
That day I lost the most wonderful, beautiful, funny, smart, loving man I have ever been blessed to know. He was my best friend, the love of my life and I truly believe, my soul mate.
Over these last ten months I have worked hard to keep my promises to Jim. I followed every detail of his last wishes as we’d discussed in 2013 and I have gotten myself in a much healthier place. Lost lots of weight and have even walked/run many races this year. I am in the process of finding out what it takes to become an advocate for runner and cyclist safety. I was asked to participate in a PSA to educate people on safety for the Running and Cycling world. I would like to push for stronger laws for those who flee the scene of a motor vehicle accident. I have made a promise to myself to live a life he would be proud of.
One more thing before this tale is complete. I need to thank you all for your generosity. Because of you and the help of the Cross fit community I was able to pay all the bills and the mortgage for eight months before I ran out of money. You all made it possible for me to not go into foreclosure proceedings before I was able to sell our house.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my story and for accepting me into your beautiful family.