Lifestyle

My Medicine Game

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On Saturday morning, while in Missoula, Montana, I was absolutely devastated when I received the news that my mother had passed away during her return from a two week trip of a lifetime in Africa.

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I broke down after getting off the phone with my father. My mind left my body. I was numb and walking through the world barely aware of my surroundings. I looked at a chair, and couldn’t even recognize what it was. I had lost normal, and could not conceive of being whole, ever again.

The feeling of loss and grief was, quite simply, overwhelming.

Kevin Flynn and his girlfriend Rene were there for me. Mike, Jeff, Henry, Matt, and Krieg were there for me. Even Jeff’s dog, Bear, was there for me. In his own way I think he could feel my emotions. Their immediate kindness brought me back from the brink of a breakdown, and I will be eternally thankful for that, but it was still surreal and my head wasn’t even close to right.

I did know that I could not sit around and wallow in grief. My mom wouldn’t have liked that. So as I tried to figure out what to do next, how to keep it together at some level, and how to get home to see my family, I also decided I needed to keep moving, and to try to find some solace, if any was possible. Lacrosse seemed like a good place to start.

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The other guys headed over first, and I followed with Kevin shortly after. When I arrived at the fields, I picked up my stick and walked around a bit in a daze. It took all of my strength to keep the tears from streaming down my face all the time, and as people started rolling in, I sort of kept to myself, unsure of what I could manage.

Kevin gently eased me back in to things, and asked if I’d like to warm up a goalie before the kids started playing. I worked with a couple of kids, and focused on them; connected with them, and somehow I began to feel just a little better. The uncontrollable tears stopped, my heart began to beat normally again, and I almost felt sanity re-enter my mind.

I stayed on at the game, and coached one of the younger age group teams. I tried to pour myself into the game even half as much as the kids were. I may have been the coach, but they led me, without even knowing it. Every time one of them got knocked down, they popped right back up, and kept playing with passion. I could see it in their eyes. It was impossible to not feel it, and take it to heart.

The boys on the field just played the game the way it was meant to be played, and the way life is meant to be lived. They celebrated victory, they supported one another, and moved on from low points quickly, and with a steely resolve to continue and improve together. They knew nothing of my inner turmoil, but played the game that way because it was just how they were…

…And that was what truly brought me back to the world of life.

My mother had lived that way. She breathed fire but had a heart as big as anyone’s. She lived life with passion and resolve, wanted her children, and my father, to do the same, and she supported us in all things, including my dreams with LaxAllStars. I saw little bits of her in all these kids, and in myself, and that was a major healing point for me.

After the game was over, I managed to get out a short talk, to let the kids know what they had done for me, how their game had already helped me through my darkest hours, and how I would have otherwise felt so alone. I let them know that this has been my Medicine.

For the rest of the day I was shown love by all who were there, from young players shaking my hand and offering their condolences, to my new friend Matt, to my new Grandmother from Idaho, who looked after me all afternoon. I felt a crush of love from the Montana (and surrounding states!) lacrosse community for the rest of my time there, and it truly drove the pain out of my heart.

I had no blood family in the area, and wanted nothing more than to see them, but without my lacrosse family, I don’t know how I ever would have made it home on my own. I will never forget the strength that I was given through this game, and the amazing people who play it. I will never forget my friends from LAS, Easton and Montana who leapt to help me when I needed it most.

I am now back in Maine with my family. We are remembering my mother, who played lacrosse as well, and we are supporting each other. The strength my family has shown amazes me still, and the initial strength that my lacrosse family gave me has not faded.

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My mom’s Varsity sweater from Weston HS.

I will be eternally grateful to know the people that I do, and even that I was in Montana when I received the news. My family has helped me feel whole again and without them I would be lost, but Lacrosse got me through those toughest first hours, and for that, I truly thank the Game, and all who love it.

About the author

Profile photo of Connor Wilson

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

13 Comments

  • So sorry for your loss. As we all grow older we start to realize how fragile life is and how easily things can change so quickly. Lacrosse helped get me through a really tough time as well. I’m glad to read it do the same for others. 

  • Connor, 

    I am so sorry for your loss, but so greatful you are a part of this wonderful game that we love.  That is one of the true beautiful things about sports, and lacrosse especially.  It’s the largest family you could ever be a part of.  Know that you certainly have my support.

  • Conner you and your family are in our hearts and prayers, I think of you often and sending out a Big Hug to you, Grandma from Idaho.

  • i am so sorry for your loss.  it is clear that your mom’s light shines through you, and will continue to do so.  may her memory be eternal and may you find comfort in knowing that she is always with you and watching you. 
    it does not surprise me (at all!) the strength you received from complete strangers who had that one thing in common with you – lacrosse.  it is the beauty of this game and this community.  it is similar to the epiphany i had two years ago about lacrosse, a sport i never played but have devoted 24 years of my life to through the Lacrosse Foundation and now US Lacrosse.  the essence of the game is found in the people, the spirit of the game, the traditions, the connection to community.  it is critical to the foundation of the sport.  i applaud and encourage your efforts to grow the game!  you are an invaluable tool in crafting the future of the sport. 
    i hope you will consider embracing the Keeper of Lacrosse Project at US Lacrosse (www.uslacrosse.org/keeper) in your efforts.  This project is the result of my epiphany two years ago.  The Keeper Project works to instill, protect and promote the essence of lacrosse in everyone.  It is so much more than a game, wins and losses, clothing, tricks, or numbers of goals, assists and saves.  As you acknowledge, it is medicine.  It relieves.  It heals.  It unites.  It enlightens.  However, it will only continue to do all those things and more if we can teach the next generation to ground themselves in the core values, to cradle the Keeper Code:  
    ·     Playing in
    the spirit of the game

    ·     Embracing
    tradition

    ·     Promoting the virtues of
    honor, integrity and respect

    ·     Inspiring acts of
    good sportsmanship

    ·     Valuing the importance of
    teamwork
    ·     And, owning the responsibility and
    connection to the greater community

    My deepest condolences to you and your family.  Continue to shine her light and breathe fire with a heart as big as hers in your good work in growing the game.  As the “Keepers” say:  The game is in your hands.  Take good care of it.  Clearly, you are.  Thank you, and thanks to your mom for raising a man of character, altruism and respect.

    Kira Muller
    US Lacrosse

  • I lost my Dad pretty suddenly a few years ago and the only thing that really felt natural to me was being on the field – investing my time and energy in to something greater than myself.  I hope the field brings you continued peace as it has done for me…I say a prayer for my Dad every time I step on the field.  I’ll add your Mom for the next one.

  • I lost my mom at the end of my senior year of high school.  I thought there was no way that I would move on from it.  Brian Langrty had heard about my mom passing and how he was her favorite player.  Brian showed to my mother’s funeral to show his respects and give his condolences to me and my family.  My high school teammates showed up at the funeral (many who came into the stands after games to get hugs from my mom who showed up and cheered for every player on our team at every game).  Many of my teammates told me how she was the best fan in the stands, and that she was like their mom too.  They all made some reference to being my family.  I will never think of any of my teammates as anything less than family.  Our team for the rest of the season wore her initials on our helmets.  The week after my mom passed, we went to a Mammoth game where my moms picture was put on the big screen and a tribute was paid to her as a mother, wife, friend and die-hard lacrosse fan.  With all of that being said, nothing made me feel better than getting out on the lacrosse field with my teammates (my family), and playing that game that I have come to love and depend on.  And I know that my mom would be proud of the high points in my life and lacrosse career.  She enjoyed nothing more than watching me play and I remember that every time I play or coach.  The lacrosse community, and the game itself are magic.  There is just something about lacrosse that has the power to heal and energize anyone who is a part of it.  Keep your head up and keep turning to lacrosse.

  • Hello Connor:  My deepest condolences and sympathy to you and your family in the loss of your beloved, Mother.  I’m sure you know–I know your pain with the sudden loss.  I’m grateful to hear that you where surrounded with friends that can help you begin the slow process of healing.  I’ll reach-out and call you when you are back in NYC.  Be Well, My Lax Friend.

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