This Sunday Philly plays host to the premier half marathon in the country; The Philadelphia Distance Run. I have done this race many times although I have missed the last couple of years do to race schedule conflicts. One of my best memories of this race was always seeing a guy named Brad Schoener playing the bagpipes in full regalia on the Falls Bridge. Brad was a permanent fixture of this race and everyone knew to look for him. Sadly, Brad lost his five year battle with cancer but not before deeply the touching the lives of countless people of all ages and all walks of life.
Brad was the music director in the Upper Darby (PA) School District where he was respected and adored by students, faculty, parents, and peers alike. My own daughters played under Brad which is when we were first introduced to his unbridled passion for music, for people, and for life. Brad didn’t do anything halfway. Brad didn’t do anything small. When it came to his family, his music, and the students that he loved, Brad did everything huge. Brad lived big.
When Brad became ill he and I became much friendlier. We bonded as we joined forces as fellow cancer survivors. We spoke often about treatments, nutrition, life, and yes – music. He also approached me about doing a triathlon; which he did – twice. And he did it big. Although we will miss Brad on Falls Bridge this year, his presence, and his spirit will echo loud and clear through the talent of several of his students who will man the bridge and play in his honor.
If you are running on Sunday, please savor the sounds you’ll hear on Falls Bridge and take a minute to remember the brilliant life that those sounds represent.