Rachel Smalley: The shock death of Tania Dalton reminds us that it is better to give people a piece of our hearts, and not a piece of our minds

It's Friday. The weekend is just around the corner, and that's something we all look forward to. You might have plans. I do. I'm heading to Queenstown to run the Motutapu Marathon with a group of friends. There's around a dozen of us. Mainly mums - and Tim.

Tim's a bit younger, but we're trying to get him to run the 42 kilometres with us. He's a bit reluctant. He reckons running with a bunch of middle-aged mothers would be a bit like running in the middle of a chicken coop. And he has a point. We do talk a lot, and often all at once. You can imagine, can't you?

Motutapu is a really tough off-road race, but there will be lots of laughs, the odd pulled muscle and a few glasses of a good pinot noir later that night. It'll be fun, they're a great bunch of girls, and I'm really looking forward to it.

But in saying that, I've had an uneasy feeling all week. I feel almost guilty about this weekend because I know for some, this is a very challenging time. And by some I mean the family of Tania Dalton. I found her death incredibly confronting. It floored me. And I think that's because Tania Dalton was similiar to me. She was 45, active, a wife and a mum. And now, just like that, she is gone.

I didn't know Tania. I interviewed her a number of times over the years, mainly when I worked as a sports journalist. I didn't know her like some of the others in our newsroom knew her - Jenny Woods, Rikki Swannell and Bernandine Oliver-Kirby. They all knew her well, either as a player or a commentator, or both. And they all are devastated by her death. It's the suddenness of it. The finality. It just doesn't seem fair. And that's because it's not. It's desperately unfair.

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That Tania, a mother of three, has died at the age of 45 is a tragedy. It's impossible to imagine the enormity of grief that her death is inflicting on so many, not least on her husband and her children. In one fleeting moment, their lives were changed forever.

What does a sudden and premature death make so many of us do? It makes us reflect on our own situations, doesn't it? It gives us perspective. It makes us realise that many of the challenges we face aren't really challenges at all. It makes us stand back for a moment, and realise what we have - instead of what we don't have. It makes us realise that our time on this planet is short. The clock is ticking, and for any number of reasons we could be gone tomorrow. It makes us value our lives, because suddenly we're confronted with the alternative.

If nothing else, the tragedy of death can remind us that we need to live our lives. It reminds us to strive to see the good. To be the good. It reminds us that it is better to give people a piece of our hearts, and not a piece of our minds. And that small stuff? Don't sweat it. Let it go. It compels us to hug our kids - tight. And to tell those that are close to us that we love them, and why. Be grateful. Be kind. Be present. And most of all, value your life and the time that you have on this earth.

My heart breaks for Tania Dalton's family and all those who were lucky enough to share her tragically truncated life. But in almost every photo I've seen of Tania, she is smiling. And I hope in time that brings some comfort to those that were close to her. Tania's life was clearly a life well-lived.

This weekend, when I'm trudging up those hills and it's hot and I'm tired, and I'm still around 10 kilometres from home, I'll think of Tania, and I'll remind myself not to focus on the climb, but to enjoy the journey - because you never quite know when that journey might end.

- NZ Herald

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