Living

Update: Widow turns grief into action

Erin Reynolds spoke to participants at the Fore Your Heart golf tournament in Raymore in October. The event in honor of her husband, John, who died at 42 of undetected heart disease, raised $40,000, which was split between two charities. <252><252>
Erin Reynolds spoke to participants at the Fore Your Heart golf tournament in Raymore in October. The event in honor of her husband, John, who died at 42 of undetected heart disease, raised $40,000, which was split between two charities. <252><252> Kevin Ashley Photography

After the sudden death of her husband, Erin Reynolds was searching.

The 33-year-old widow wanted to better understand the abrupt end of his life, and she wanted to know how to proceed with hers.

The search led her to two organizations: St. Luke’s Foundation and Soaring Spirits International. To honor her husband, John, on what would have been their 10th wedding anniversary in October, Erin planned a fundraiser to benefit both groups.

“It was even more successful than I could have wildly dreamed,” Reynolds says about the Fore Your Heart golf tournament in Raymore. She was the subject of an FYI story in September.

The event raised $40,000, split between the two charities.

John had died a little more than a year earlier at age 42. On that summer day, he had been working from home in Raymore. Erin had taken the children with her on a few errands. When they got back to the house, Erin noticed a note from John saying he had gone on a 3-mile run.

She made lunch while they waited for him to return. But John, fit and always healthy, died near the end of his workout. An autopsy revealed undetected heart disease, unusual in someone so young.

Erin’s research of heart disease, including discussions with cardiologists, led her to St. Luke’s and to the availability of CardioScan imaging, which identifies artery plaque buildup. She wants to help encourage earlier detection of heart disease.

In her effort to understand widowhood, she learned about Soaring Spirits and its Camp Widow weekends, gatherings for those who have lost spouses. She attended one of the events last year and found comfort there. She hopes to help others have that chance.

The Oct. 9 golf tournament drew 120 participants. Threatening weather delayed the start, but it just gave everyone more time to visit beforehand, Erin says.

“It was cool to see so many people from so many parts of our lives,” she says.

The children, 9-year-old Will, 7-year-old Addie and 3-year-old Eloise, set up a lemonade stand and took in more than $100 for the cause.

“I wanted them to see it all, to be part of the experience,” Erin says. “We talk a lot about helping others.”

The children also were there when she delivered the contribution to St. Luke’s. She says she was direct when she explained the donation to the two older children: “I told them we wanted to do everything we could do to help prevent other daddies from dying.”

Now Erin has given herself a new challenge. After John’s death, a fear arose in her she hadn’t expected and hopes to quash: a fear of running.

So Erin has begun training for the Rock the Parkway half-marathon in April. She has never run long distances before.

“I thought I needed to do something big to get past it,” she says. “I don’t want to live my life in fear.”

To reach Edward M. Eveld, call 816-234-4442 or send email to eeveld@kcstar.com. On Twitter @eeveld.

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