I woke up a year ago on a sun-soaked autumn day savoring the fact that I had my husband to myself for the entire weekend, a too-infrequent luxury. But in less time than it takes to write this entry, that day and our lives since changed irretrievably as we got the tragic news that Fran Crippen had drowned during a 1oK open-water World Cup race in Fujairah, UAE. Over the past year, there are two things I’ve learned as I’ve watched Fran’s family and friends come to grips with this tragedy:
1. A broken heart can expand outward to help others. Fran’s family and friends are moving through their pain to make sure no one has to go through the preventable tragedy they’ve experienced. They show patience, resolve, and compassion in advocating for safer protocols even as FINA drags its heels. They’ve established the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation to award scholarships to elite swimmers who share Fran’s passion and dedication to sport. “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart,” said the Kotsker Rebbe. I never truly understood this until now. Their love and loss has transformed the sport for this and many generations.
2. Love is stronger than death. My husband, Jack, and Fran’s teammate and friend, Alex Meyer, have taken Fran’s spirit with them as Alex works his dream of making the 2012 Olympic team. After placing 3rd in the Viedma (ARG) Open Water Swimming Grand Prix in January, Jack and Alex got back into the water with a treasured photo of Fran who’d won the race the year before. The same photo of Fran accompanied Alex on the 1st place podium at Worlds in Shanghai where he achieved his and Fran’s dream of making the 2012 US Olympic Team. While Fran’s physical body is no longer here, his love for life, swimming, and his friends remains a spark igniting inspiration.
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Fran made us feel special with a smile, kind words of encouragement and his laughter. His spirit lives on through all of us who loved him.
- U.S. collects 6 medals, extends lead at Pan Am (espn.go.com)
- From Walden Pond to the Olympics, Alex Meyer Thrives in Open Water (nytimes.com)
- Lochte earns USA Swimming’s athlete of year (espn.go.com)
- U.S. collects 7 medals, extends lead at Pan Am (espn.go.com)