Who could have imagined that terminally ill Linda would outlive those three bystanders, who'd been hearty enough to cheer the runners at the finish line on a day when Linda was too weak to leave her room?
But she did outlive them. That fact doesn't prolong her life, which is winding down after a heroic, two-year battle. But it reminds us that one day, we too will be gone. And one day after that, so will those who mourn our deaths.
The best we can do with that rough knowledge is to be kind to one another right now. To comfort those who are hurting. To tell them, "I'm here, you're not alone," and then to show them we mean it.
The way hundreds of people are doing for Linda. Since my story ran, the response to her selfless wish for her parents has been extraordinary.
Her goal was to raise $9,000, which she hoped would cover her funeral costs and final medical bills. But as of Tuesday, the total was thousands above that, from hundreds of donors.
More than $10,500 has come through a page on gofundme.com that Linda's friend Jenn Szewczak has established (well-wishers can donate to Linda with the click of a mouse).
But independent fundraisers are pulling in money, too.
Kiddie Garden Daycare in Fishtown held an all-day bake sale Tuesday for Linda, covering the cupcakes in teal-colored frosting, since teal is the "awareness" color for ovarian cancer. By 4 p.m., it had raised more than $700.
A group called "Comedians for a Cause" is holding a comedy night Friday at the Arts Parlor in South Philly, with all proceeds going to Linda.
S&C Sweet Factory in Port Richmond is selling "Lollies 4 Linda," and Penn Treaty Middle School is doing a dress-down jean-day funder.
Local photographer Judy Newton is auctioning off a family photo shoot - a $300 value - to benefit Linda. Fishtown and Port Richmond bars are organizing 50-50 raffles. And the softball tournament organized for Linda by the Philadelphia Sport and Social Club has already signed up four teams for a May 18-19 tournament.
The list goes on, but you get the point. Linda's story has deeply touched not just her friends and neighbors in Port Richmind, where she has lived her whole life, but strangers, too.
"It's wonderful but it's also just so sad," says Szewczak, who says she cries every day with Linda as she shares news of the latest generous donations. "Everyone has come together for Linda, and it's great. But the reason just sucks."
Linda is overwhelmed, too. Not just by the support, but by the reality that her life is ending.
"I wonder what life will be like for my family without me," she says, referring to her parents, Sue and Bob, with whom she lives, and her brother and two sisters. "I'm worried about how sad they'll be."
She doesn't know what they'll do with the mementos she's hoarded. She saves everything - she still has a note from her fifth-grade teacher - and her room at home holds her huge collection of pens, gigantic DVD collection and countless photos of everyone she's ever known and loved.
It's surreal to leave behind evidence of the simple life she has loved so much. Still, she says, she is not afraid to die.
"I'm hoping it will be fabulous in heaven and that I'll be reunited with my aunts and uncles, and grandpop and grandmom," she says. "I just wish it wasn't happening so soon. But I guess God chose a different path for me."
With the love and support of strangers and loved ones - all of us terminal, whether we're willing to admit it or not - may the path God has chosen for this brave young woman feel a little less lonely.
To donate, go to gofundme.com/2k9z64 or mail a check to Linda Belz Benefit, P.O. Box 5920, Philadelphia, PA 19137.
On Twitter: @RonniePhilly