On hallowed ground
To my son –
I have struggled writing this “letter” to you, because there is something so final in it. I am not good with endings. But I don’t think dreamers ever really are. As a lot, we are always watching the world, and fervently hoping that our will aligns with God’s heart.
Two weeks ago, you were standing on hallowed ground. I don’t know if anyone else realized it, but I certainly did as I stood next to your adopted “auntie”. We stood cheering and hoping, hoping and cheering for our sons for whom we wished the cool, crisp nights, warmth of blanket bundles, smell of fresh grass, and glare of stadium lights would last forever.
Even though my dreamer heart doesn’t want to admit it, many good things do come to their ends. When the clock ran out of time, it was if the last sand in my heart’s hourglass poured out. Something you had fought so hard for was over. There are many who conditioned and practiced, but none that I know who went through more to be a part of the team. Even though you were often ridiculed, overlooked, and disappointed, you never gave up. Surgery after surgery, you never wavered in your dedication. You simply wanted to play the game you love. If I have never told you, I admire your courage.
You might be wondering what I mean by hallowed ground since the final game of your football career was at an opposing team’s field. After waiting almost three years to be able to play again, the first step you took to play the game you shared with your brother took place on the very field where your final steps to a locker room occurred. The poignancy of that moment was not lost on me. Hallowed ground! I almost daresay it was sacred ground because Reed’s first game as a Laker was played on that very field too. Maybe, just maybe, the warmth I suddenly felt in your final minutes was one of his signature sneak-up-behind-you heavenly hugs, telling me, “Don’t worry, Mom! We are going to be okay!”
Letting go of a lifelong pursuit takes time, and thankfully, you eased the pain by having one more weekend as a coach for your Special Olympics football team. The joy I see in your face when you practice and coach your team is only rivalled by watching the parents of your players. I see in their eyes the respect they have for a young man who picked their sons first, something that many of them probably don’t get to experience all the time. If only my heart could tell theirs, you understand how that feels, and you pour your whole heart into making the game fun for them all. I watch as you tell them you believe in them and you are so proud of them. My heart soars. If I have never told you, I admire your spirit for how it seeks to help others.
I know you were hoping for another gold medal for your Pumas, but there’s nothing shabby about bronze, especially when you coach with honor and dignity. Just like I have watched your Granpa Junior for years, I could see your thoughts were playing out every moment questioning if there was anything you could have done differently. Let me tell you, son. There are lots of things that could have been tried, but you did the one thing that hundreds didn’t do. You showed up! You gave of your time and talents – all for the love of your game. Quietly, on the long road home, you said something that I will hold in my soul for a very long time. You were looking ahead for who could replace you as coach when you go away to college next year. It can’t just be anybody, Mom. It has to be someone with a servant’s heart.
I was trying so hard not to let you see my tears. They were a jumbled mixture of eclectic, cathartic tears. Tears of bitterness for all you have had to endure. Tears of joy that you were made of the right stuff to overcome all of that. Huge tears for the void where football used to be. Tears of sadness that the journey has come to an end. Tears of pride. Tears of wonder that God could use your injuries to teach us all kinds of things about life and loving his people. If I have never told you, I love your big servant’s heart. I admire the way you use it to love others.
In every definition of the word, that is a true champion to me.
Thank you for all the fun memories from flag football to varsity starter, and especially as a coach. This football loving momma will cherish them always.
Loving you from the sidelines for a long time and loving you always forever –
Faith – Family – Football