I Remember Mikey
I was thinking of old basketball days for myself and my son a couple of weeks ago. I wondered what happened to the kids that were on his teams that I coached when he was ten, eleven, and twelve years old. I wondered what happened to kids that he played against at the Courthouse, which is a basketball facility that had camps in the summers. I looked up a kid named Skyler who ended up playing at a high level in high school. I looked up Mark who did not excel in basketball, but was an excellent tennis player. He is currently on the coaching staff of a Big Ten University. I had previously looked up a kid named Ryan and followed him as he played Division III basketball in college. I always wondered what happened to Mikey. Mikey was a kid two years younger than my son and basketball meant everything to him back then. I remember Mikey was nine and in camps he would be alone at a basket just shooting and shooting. He was a little kid and he was left handed and he could shoot! What he liked to do most was shoot long shots. He just enjoyed making long shots and he kept practicing by the hour.
When my son was 11 he needed a partner for the 2 ball competition. That was a competition for two kid teams where they passed to each other and shot from different spots on the floor. They tried to accumulate as many points as they could in one minute. A couple of years before he teamed with a girl in the mixed division and they finished third in the state! This time he would be doing it in the boys competition. After considering who we could get for a partner we decided to ask Mikey and his parents. Even though Mikey was only nine at the time he could hold his own and more with any of those older kids. Mikey was excited to team up with us and his parents were very supportive.
We were leading in the first round with 25 points I think when the last team came up. The winning teams got to advance to a competition for the regional winners and it looked good. This other team though started making basket after basket. There was one problem that I saw right away. The rules stated plainly that players could not shoot from the same spot two times in a row. Each player on this team kept shooting the same shots. The volunteer official was marking all of the shots as good and the team had scored over 50 points according to his count. When I brought up the fact that they broke the rules a controversy started. A family member of this team considered me a trouble maker and against their kids. I was just pointing out what the rule was. During this controversy it was Mikey who was taking a leadership role. “They said that we could shoot again or keep our score”, Mikey said with a gleam in his eye! “I told them we would keep our score!” He said it like he was making a presidential decision to end poverty! Well it didn’t come to a do over. One of the kids was big enough to realize that rules were broken and our team moved on. Still in my mind I can see the excited look on Mikey’s face as he declared his decision for the team!
So all of these years have passed and like I mentioned I was wondering about Mikey. So I typed his name into my computer expecting to read his basketball heroics when the article that came up hit me like a punch to the stomach. Mikey was dead and it happened in 2011. I felt bad for the situation and I felt bad because I had just found out after three years. Mikey died of a fast growing brain tumor at the age of 19. After the shock and reading many articles praising Mikey on what a caring person he was, I did find some basketball stories from the year before his death. As we all expected Mikey did turn out to be a very good basketball player! An article that just touched my heart and filled my eyes with tears was when everyone knew he was suffering from this incurable fate. Schools that were Mikey’s teams biggest rivals were donating money and doing fund raisers for his cause! It was a wonderful story in realizing that ultimately we are all on the same team and need to be there for each other!
It’s the memorial day weekend and it is a time that we think about young men who gave their lives to uphold the freedoms that we have. While many of us are enjoying our extra day off and concentrating on how we can maximize our time and pleasure I have a thought. I know first hand what it is like losing a child. It is like living your worst dream. It is like getting stabbed with a knife. As in a knife wound as time goes by the pain lessons. However sometimes the slightest movement will bring that pain back to the surface. We need to realize that behind that soldier who lost their life for their country there is parents who are hurting.
Through losing a child I can tell you something that in my experience is a fallacy. Usually people will say something like “well don’t bring anything up about their child because it will bring back sad memories.” In my experience just the opposite is true. When we don’t talk about the person that is so dear to them it is like they never existed. The hurt comes when the loss is not acknowledged and we try to ignore the elephant in the room. Sharing memories is good for us and good for the hurting parent. It speaks volumes to the fact that someone might have left us early but they are still in our memories and they affected our lives!
Over the next couple of days we will hear about how others protect the freedoms we enjoy. One of the biggest freedoms I’m thankful for is being able to collect memories. Memories are a gift from God that shape our lives. People come and go in our lives and we learn lessons from each of them. Some of my lessons learned I have been able to pass along to you. I am thankful for the freedom to do that! Yes, I remember Mikey. In his own little way he taught me to be dedicated and enthusiastic. I have many wonderful memories of my daughter. Don’t think you would hurt me if you asked me about her. Although I might shed a tear or two it is far better than to cry because you acted like she never was here.