This past week has been really tough for me. It reminded me how difficult the last 10 years have been.
Up until that time, death had not played a big part in my life. I had lost a couple of grand parents and that was about it. I was lucky. But then people I was friends with started to pass away and the reality of life and death started to set in.
First, it was my friend Gerry Lehn who I had coached football with. Gerry was a great man and a true friend. He had some health issues but seemed to be winning the battle, until I got a call from Gerry’s son on a Sunday night. Gerry was gone.
I really didn’t feel anything, because it was such a shock. I hadn’t had to deal with anything like that before. Then a few years later a great kid that I had coached died in a fire. His name was Russell Isles. Russell was still a teenager. He was a kid that grew up a little rough but he always had a smile on his face. That one hurt.
I coached Arena football in Evansville, Indiana in 2012 and in January I met Eddie Cronin. Eddie was a big man with an even bigger heart and through some tough times we grew very close in six months. My boys loved Eddie and so did I. After the season, I believe it was in July, I woke up one morning and decided to look at Facebook. With sleep in my eyes, the first thing I saw was a post from Eddie’s fiancé – telling how she had lost Eddie the night before in a car crash. I sat there in disbelief with tears streaming down my eyes – wondering how this could happen to such a great guy. Then I realized this happens to everybody.
It doesn’t matter if you are a great guy or a scumbag, we all die.
A year later, I sat in a hospital room near my father as I waited for him to take his last breath. This is one I really couldn’t believe was happening. He was my hero. This could not be real. It was. I sat there by my fathers’ side until he wasn’t breathing anymore.
After he died, people would tell me that he’s in a better place. While that’s true I still needed him. That man was my hero. I was lost, and still am without him. Then a couple of years later my mom passed away. By then I was kind of numb to this whole experience.
I guess you could say I was cried out.
A couple of years later, I saw another Facebook post, telling me one of my favorite players Brock Robinson, had died. Brock was in his late 20’s. I will always remember him as one of the fiercest competitors I ever coached.
He was also one of the nicest and most caring kids I’ve ever known.
Still it seemed I was still cried out, but last Friday, as I was at my home away from a football field coaching – I got a text saying that they had heard a kid that played on my son’s High School Football team had passed away. I didn’t want to believe this. When I got to my car, I made a phone call and found out that it was true.
His name was Hayden Poor. The Hayden I knew was a kid that would give you the shirt off his back. Hayden had just turned 18 and graduated from High School. He had his whole life in front of him. As I let that sink in, I was no longer cried out. This struck a chord with me. This great kid was younger than my daughter and my oldest son, and he was now gone forever. His Grandmother started a GoFundMe page to pay for his funeral. If anyone is interested in reading the page, and sharing or donating, it’s is a very worthy cause.
Over the weekend, I got another text telling me one of my former players, Jared Lorenzen, was in the hospital in ICU. Does this ever stop? Jared was a quarterback at Kentucky, and later with the Giants, where he won a Super Bowl ring. He went on to play Arena Football, and on a couple of teams I coached. Jared was the butt of a lot of jokes when he played. Did those people making the jokes ever win a Super Bowl?
Jared is overweight. He was a great football player and is an even better man. He’s a fighter, and I’m hoping he can overcome this and the demons with his weight. The important thing is most of us have some type of demon whether it’s weight, alcohol, or drugs.
Depression and a myriad of things can cause problems in a person’s life. When I was younger, I would always say that a person had messed up their own lives. But in the end, a lot of people feel all alone in the world for many different reasons. The sad thing in all of this is that we all have problems. Instead of trying to build the person up next to you, a lot of people will tear the person down.
I think most of the time this happens because when somebody fails, it makes another person feel better about themselves. We really are all in this game of life together. A smile and an understanding ear are all you really have to do.
You never know when the interaction you have with someone might be your last.
So tonight, when you go to bed, remember everybody that you have loved, and lost, and say a prayer for them. When you wake up tomorrow, thank God for the opportunity to be alive another day. How about going out of your way to be nice to the people around you – because you may be that one person to make their day better.
We are all in this together.
We all know how this thing called life ends.
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