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.
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.
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.
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.