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5k turns loss into tribute

The loss of a friend or loved one can create a void in the heart that is difficult to fill. So it was for Catherine Lillibridge, when she lost her friend Mary Ellen Smith, 56, wife of the Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, bishop of Southwest Florida, to cancer in March of this year.

Catherine Lillibridge shows off her armband.

Saddened by the loss of her friend, Lillibridge, wife of Bishop Gary Lillibridge, wanted to do something to honor Smith’s memory, but wasn’t certain about how she should go about it. Then, Lillibridge learned about the Triennial 5K Walk/Run sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women Triennial meeting and scheduled for July 8 at 6:30 a.m.

Since both she and Smith were runners and fitness enthusiasts, she decided that she would run in the event to honor her friend. However, after going online to register, Lillibridge was impressed by the beauty of the Indianapolis Canal Walk, where the walk/run was scheduled to take place. It was suddenly clear that she wanted to do something even more special and life affirming to remember Smith.

“Mary Ellen and I would walk together each time we went to a House of Bishops or Sewanee gathering. When I saw a picture of the canal and path in Indianapolis for the 5K walk/run, I knew I would be doing this with Mary Ellen in my heart,” said Lillibridge. “It looked like the kind of place where Mary Ellen and I would have liked to walk together.”

It was then that she decided to pick up the phone and call the event organizers to discuss just how to pay tribute to her friend at the event, she said.

There was an emotional discussion of sponsorship and tribute possibilities. Afterward, it was decided that 5K participants could walk (or run) the event in Mary Ellen Smith’s memory, and that purple armbands bearing Smith’s name (purple being the official representative color of the bishops) would be made available to friends, colleagues, and others walking in her honor.

“I contacted Bishop Smith, to make sure he was comfortable with a tribute to Mary Ellen,” Lillibridge remembers. “He was thrilled! In fact, he asked if he should sign up for the race.”

Of course, Lillibridge’s response was a resounding “Yes!”

With Bishop Smith’s blessing, plans for the tribute fell into place. Lillibridge composed an e-mail to all the bishops, and their spouses, encouraging them to walk in Smith’s memory.

For those who signed up for the event through that link, and notified Lillibridge, an armband was ready for them to wear during the race.  Each armband bears the words “In Loving Memory of Mary Ellen Smith.”

The DWTX team.

This morning, more than 270 people gathered for the event, including a team from the Diocese of West Texas.“It was a wonderful tribute to Mary Ellen,” said Lillibridge. “There was a lot of energy, and people seemed to enjoy their time together walking along the path by the canal in downtown Indianapolis.”

Report from Triennial Today

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Categories: General info
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