Though I have met Coach Navarre about once and don’t attend nearly enough hockey games, I am getting to know him, and, his family.
Yet despite such limited exposure and whether they realize it or not, they are coaching me up.
And my sense is that many other people in these parts have been coached up one way or another by Team Navarre.
I recall when I first heard when they first learned. And how incredibly open they were about it.
During the early stages of the battle, reading the daily FB posts from he and his bride Molly, as well as his blog updates became part of my routine.
Then, one day, I logged in to see Coach Navarre on his skates. With a hockey stick in his hands. Like he never left the rink.
Right where he was supposed to be.
I think my smile that moment was almost as big as his. Well, maybe not. For underneath that hat, the sweat and some fatigue, you could clearly see pure, radiant “joy”.
For seeing some of your joy that day brought back some of that much-needed commodity into my life, and I am sure it did for many others as well
Sad to say, but most of us are far too familiar with Coach’s opponent. It took my dad. It scarred my mom. And it has snatched away countless other relatives, parents, siblings, friends and associates.
Though these encounters with cancer can touch virtually every aspect of one’s existence, they can also bestow on us some of life’s most fundamental and lasting lessons.
That despite the hurt, lasting and simple blessings are to be found within this painful experience.
And no matter the circumstance, there is always some element of joy to be found.
My dad had a summer time routine when he would get home from work. Once the tie came off, he would embark on a quick recon of our back yard garden, sampling the tomatoes he grew in abundance there.
Dirt, bugs and all, “Doc” would eat them right off the vine, pretty much like an apple.
Leaving a trail of tomato juice, seeds and some mud down the front of the dress shirt, to the exasperation of my mom.
Then Dad got sick.
Time grew short.
And he began to lose his appetite.
On one of my visits, I brought him some tomatoes we grew from home. When he opened the bag, and took one out, you could sense he was no longer confined to a hospital bed, wasting away.
As he ate them, it was like he was back home.
In our back yard.
On his post-work garden patrol, eating those tomatoes like apples, right off the vine.
There was joy to be found in the simple act of eating a tomato.
Being able to see the joy in Coach Navarre’s face back on his skates – or – imagining the smile behind the mask, behind the bench was a reminder of that.
And being a part of those small triumphs afforded me with some of the best coaching one could receive.
Being able to read about the joy he experienced that day – nearly taking a “digger”, that he handled the puck, took some shots, that his hands and feet hurt, and that he just simply skated – proved to be the perfect tonic for “one of those days”.
Being there as the whole family was taking baby steps was compelling evidence of one of life’s indisputable truths: that time is our most valuable asset. And those little moments are meant to be savored.
So whether these instants are just part of your normal day – or representative of one small victory in a long battle – there is always joy to be found.
Whether you realize it or not Team Navarre, you are still on the job.
Just like you have been all along.
Teaching us to make every moment count.
Still coaching us up.