Gone Too Soon

Rod and Matthew Churchill
I’ve been feeling sorry for myself lately. In a couple of months I will send my first born off to college. It’s going to be very tough for me. We’ve spent so much time together over the last 18 years. So much of it at ice rinks. So many long drives, early morning practices and airplane flights. Weekends in hotel rooms, trying to get to sleep after a big win and cussing the alarm clock together the next morning. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all the extra time . . . besides miss him.
Yeah, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. Then, yesterday I got this email.
It was from Rod Churchill of Newfoundland, Canada. He wrote to tell me that he had just bought a couple t-shirts from my website and that he really enjoyed my blog. As I was typing up a thank you response, I noticed way down at the bottom of his signature information, was a link. It said, ‘Tribute Site: www.matthewchurchill.ca’. I clicked it.  Oh my God, I thought, it’s his son – he lost his only son to a hit and run driver in 2005. As I clicked through the site and read the heart-wrenching wounds of this mother and father laid bare, I cried. I cried for the Churchills, and all of the parents who have lost a child.

I can’t know what it must be like to suffer this worst of all tragedies. And God, I hope I never do. But it must be beyond any pain imaginable. Many people never climb out of the abyss. I lost a 12-year-old cousin to brain cancer recently and I’ve seen the devastation that it leaves in it’s wake.

I thought about all the times I felt frustrated because my son got a short shift or his team lost a close game. Then, I thought about how Rod would surely give anything to see his son get a short shift, to see his son’s team lose a close game . . . to see his son. It’s so hard for us to keep things in perspective all the time. However, it’s stories like this one that can quickly make things fall into their proper place.

But from tragedy, sometimes the phoenix of inspiration rises. Rod Churchill has found a way to stay connected to his son Matthew through hockey. He has spent the last 5 years coaching other young men. Obviously, I’ve never seen Rod Churchill coach. But I’ll bet you one thing. I’ll bet Rod teaches these kids more than how to win. I’ll bet they take more away from their time with him than how to make a proper hip check. I’ll bet they learn something about life, and priorities, and what’s really important. And I’ll bet you somewhere, his son Matthew is smiling about that.

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