At 930a this morning we got a phone call at the gym telling us that Christine Warden Gilley and her family had been struck by a tractor trailer on their way to West Virginia. Christine, David, Jack, and Grace were all killed in the accident. It has taken me a while to try and process this and I am not sure it will ever sink in or make sense. No matter how many times you have dealt with a loss, it will never get easier. This one is especially tough because the Gilley family has been such a staple here at Vitality for so many years. The number of people Christine positively affected is impossible to count. We got to watch Grace and Jack grow up in front of our eyes over the 5+ years they were around the gym. I always laughed with David because he openly admitted that CWG (I have called her this since day 1) was the only fitness fanatic in the house and she was determined to change that. She would “recommend” to David that it was time for him to get back to the gym and he would happily join her for the workouts….all the while being reminded by her that he should go a little “faster”:) Like many of us husbands at the gym, it wasn’t a secret that his wife was leading the pack and we both laughed that it was probably the best bet to let her be in charge. That was one thing you could tell about Christine, she was really amazing at taking charge. It didn’t matter what it was she was doing, she would show up more prepared, more ready, and more determined than anyone else. I saw this as she was making a transition from one career to another, and I also saw it with the way she attacked her health and fitness goals.
I am sitting here staring at the blinking cursor on the screen and so many different stories pop into my head with Christine. She was a fixture in my morning classes and we probably got along so well because she was nearly as stubborn as I was and she had amazingly thick skin. She loved to joke around and could dish it out just as well as she could take it. She was the last person to post on my wall and of course, it was about some type of manscaping beard product. I would joke with her about needing a new watch because she was always running a few minutes late for class. I could have cared less with her, I knew she was driving from Salisbury which was about 45-minutes one way. She made that commute to the gym for years and never once complained or talked about leaving Vitality due to the distance. She was the first one to sign up for any event that we were running and would come up with by far the most creative team names. Thankfully, many inappropriate team names never saw the light of day but nonetheless, had many of us rolling on the floor.
One thing that I know with 100% certainty is that she was super happy. She had emailed me a few months back and told me about how great David was doing and how the kids were in a great place with school. She had told me how happy she was in her new job and how much fun she was having with her ability to spend more time with her family. It was as happy as I have seen her since starting at Vitality. I say that because I am confident that when her time came, she had no regrets. She had made the changes in her life that made her the happiest and made her family most happy. She left us with that lesson and the realization that we don’t have complete control over when our time here ends. All we have control over is how we can impact other people along the way. I challenge you to try and remember a time that CWG didn’t have a smile on her face when you saw her. She was an amazing Mom and you could tell that by how mature and amazing Grace and Jack were. She would always joke that I needed another Charlee and I told her that unless she was going to housebreak my 3rd, there would be no more Charlees’.
This is going to take a long time for us to recover from. We probably will never fully recover from this gut punch. However, this is what happens when you have amazing people in your lives. When they go, they take a little piece of us with them that we won’t ever get back. But that piece that they took with them pales in comparison to what they have given us along the way. The only thing we can do is fix whatever it is in our lives that needs fixing and give our families the love and attention that they deserve. It always frustrated me that it would take a 7-month deployment for me to fully appreciate the people that I had in my life. This is no different, it shouldn’t take a tragic event for us to open our eyes but unfortunately, sometimes that is the case.
We will update everyone on the details of the funeral once we have them. I hope that they have a big venue because Vitality is going to show up in force to celebrate the lives of the Gilley Family.