* Tip o’ the hat to Khalil Gibran, whose words have always felt just right.
The baby started playing baseball five years ago, when he was but a wee thing.
As luck would have it, he’s had the same coach, Coach Eric, every year, an eternally patient man who has helped to foster a bunch of gangly babies, including his own son, into a team of ballplayers. Always by Coach Eric’s side was his wife, Lisa. The two of them basically kept the entire Little League program in our neighborhood running, organizing teams, ordering tshirts, running the concession stand.
Lisa had always been a sweetheart and she joked easily with the baby. I can remember last year when we showed up to pick up his uniform shirt and there were only two left in his size. She said to him, “Okay do you want number 10? Or 11? Or 10? Or 11? Or maybe 10?” The baby and I both giggled before grabbing 10. (Or maybe it was 11.)
This past season, I was on one of my dreaded days of concession stand duty. “Dreaded” because it always comes at the end of a very long day and because it requires me to do arithmetic on my feet, which is always embarrassing for everyone present. I happened to be working with Lisa and though I was usually uncomfortable interacting with the other parents (for admittedly dumb, self-imposed reasons), Lisa made me feel at ease. We chatted about rats and ridding our house of them and schools and kids and such. I liked her, I decided. She was a truly good person.
Lisa passed away on Monday. She had a stroke in late July and had been in a coma ever since. She was 39.
Hearing the news affected me much harder than I would have expected. I couldn’t stop thinking about her older son, who is the baby’s age, and her younger son who is about 5 or 6. I couldn’t stop thinking about Coach Eric. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how much it must have upset her somewhere in her fading heart to know that she had to leave them.
The baby, the mother-in-law (who knew Coach Eric from before), and I went to the funeral home last night to pay our respects. Coach and the boys were holding up remarkably well and after extending my sympathies to them I stepped over to the picture display. Lisa beamed from some of the best moments of her life. Dressed up for her prom. With Eric at their wedding. Dancing with her dad at the reception. Holding a newborn son. Meeting Hines Ward. (This is Pittsburgh, remember. Those kinds of events are a big deal.) I started to lose it. I couldn’t imagine not being with the baby and the husband from this point forward. I couldn’t imagine being this age and proceeding through the rest of my life without my spouse. I couldn’t imagine working so hard to find the people that I love most in the world and making them mine, only to have that horribly changed by fate.
I know people do it all the time but I just don’t know how. I’m sure they don’t either until they find themselves doing it.