I am rarely at a loss for words. In fact I tend to think — and write — in 800 word increments.
But there are times when there simply are no words. When you have no idea what to say. What could be said. When nothing seems to make any sense. Writing about our family means sometimes writing about friends. I have long joked that being friends with us should come with a signed disclaimer. We write about our lives and what is new — and news — with us.
Sometimes, however, the news is not good.
Last week, we received word that a good man — a family man, a youth coach and all-around nice guy — passed away unexpectedly. He was a husband, a father. The kind of nice guy you expect to see at the sidelines, at the school, around town. The one who always had a friendly word and a smile. The one who was always with his kids — and sometimes ours, too.
We first met him when Boywonder was small. I don’t remember his exact age, just that his shin guards seemed taller than he was. Even a small T-shirt fit him like a dress and he didn’t know much about the game he would eventually be good at.
His new coach was a big man, but he always bent low to listen to a small boy who didn’t say much. Our son learned a lot about the game and sportsmanship from his coach that year. I don’t recall the win/loss record. I don’t know if the halftime snacks were always healthy. I can’t recall if the weather was overwhelmingly hot or cold that fall. It’s the Midwest so probably both. On the same day. I know that the kids got wet, and muddy and tired. That they were sometimes overwhelmed and cranky — or maybe that was just the parents.
Like most family men, Coach had a daytime job and nights and weekends. I also know that he worked tirelessly and always with a smile to show up, be positive and be proud — of his boys and all of our players. As the children grew, they outgrew his capable coaching but we still saw this “good guy” around. Pacing the sidelines, always quick to say “hi.” He was a fixture in our community.
Then one day last week, he was gone.
I sat my children down to tell them that this pillar of family and the community — the “good guy” they had known for what seemed their whole lives — was gone. And it was hard to explain why, because there are no words.
Unfortunately, we had to be out of town the day of the funeral. I felt terrible about that. I expressed my condolences to his spouse and children online. I sent prayers for comfort, hope, joy and healing.
I knew it wasn’t enough. Nothing ever is.
The morning of the funeral, Boywonder surprised me. (He was left at home to work and lead his team in practice.) That Saturday morning, he got up very early to go to work. A few hours in, he clocked out, drove home, showered, dug out a shirt and tie and drove himself to the calling hours. No one told him to do this. We didn’t even ask. He just did it.
I think it says something about a life when a teenager willingly does this. It says they remember. They remember the good man who bent down to listen when they were very small. Who said, “it’s OK” and “You can do it,” “I believe in you” and “Try again.”
The main points of anyone’s obituary are, and should be, family. I think it’s important to remember, however, that in any community, surrounding you right now are so many “good men” (and women) who make a difference in our lives. It has been famously said that people will not always remember what you said or did — but they will remember how you made them feel. It says that this good man took the time from his own family to make mine feel appreciated, cared for and welcome.
There are still no words to make it right and make it make sense. There are however a mere two I need to say. They are words we should ALL say to the “good men” (and women) in our lives who give of themselves to help the community. Words that should be said before it is too late.
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