"every champion was once a contender who refused to give up."
I've thought of Mama's life and death in many different analogies and ways. Earth is like a womb -- we're alive, but once we come out of the womb we're REALLY alive. Crossing a bridge. Sailing a sea. A chapter or two in an endless novel series. But, currently, as our basketball team is one week from tournament play, sports themes are on my mind. And I view Mama's last days as the Championship Memories.
Sports has an incredible ability to engage your body, mind, heart and soul. Big games I participated in as a player and coach come to mind almost daily. There is no way to describe a championship season with a team you love. You work and labor and practice and run and it seems repetitive. And games start -- you win some, you lose some. You try to take the good and enhance, and take the bad and change. Each event has the big event in mind. Every day is working toward that day. Play-offs come. This swear-word gets serious. Play-offs are wars. And if you make it through, you're a player in the finals. It's extremely emotional. I would dream about the game multiple times throughout multiple nights. Every routine, every conversation, every feeling stapled to my memory. Laying out my uniform. Filling my water bottle. Dressing myself. Rehearsing plays and mantras and goals. Arriving at the school. Seeing my girls. Warm-ups. Tip-off. We go up! We go down! How will it end! All that time, and now it's gone by so fast! It was nervey-fun.
Mama's last few weeks were our Championship Days. So nerve-wracking. So intense. So memorable. So fun. After a life of practicing, cheering, competing, running the end of the season was upon her. This was it. All she'd been living for. Her last chance to "leave it on the court." The wonderful news is that she did it. She finished the game and was victorious, The difficult news is that we missed the awards ceremony. We miss her. But God allowed us so much. He gave us time He could have taken. He gave us the chance to lay out the uniform one more time. To warm-up together, one more time. To walk out on the court with our loved ones cheering for us, one more time. He gave us Holy Ground days we could never replace. We made many memories in those end months, and we'd like to share some of them with you.
One day in early December our family was summoned together by my mom's best girlfriend, Tracy. A few of the kids couldn't make it, but there was a 'big surprise' she had for us. I couldn't guess what it might be. With a group of Mama's friends huddled around we watched an artist unveil the gift:
I photographed mom so I saw her reaction to the surprise before I saw it: the painting. In my whole 24 years I've never seen mom burst into blessed-tears like she did that evening. She did for good reason. Tracy pooled money from dozens of eager friends. They got in touch with Becca DiMiao and hired her to paint our magical masterpiece. All of us -- all of us. Mama, Dad, the seven kids, Caleb and Rowdy. All of us. Just a couple short months ago in front of Mama (and her mother's) favorite ride at her favorite place in the world. This meticulously crafted gift is what we would grab if the house was on fire.
There are more details that mean something to us every time we look at it. Katie is wearing a shirt my mom bought with her mom in Hawaii when she was Katie's age. Bacca was with us that day, I know it. Dad is smiling. Mom is wearing her favorite present from my dad: a diamond eternity necklace. Kevin's hair is curly -- mom's favorite way for it to be. She loves his curls. Lauren is wearing a shirt my mother-in-law sent to me, and Caleb is wearing his new logo on his cap proudly. There is a long (ridiculous) story behind the white shorts I'm wearing, but it includes my husband and mom being very patient and gracious. Tim was with us this trip. Rowdy happened to have his ears on. This is the only picture we have of the eleven of us.
After hanging the treasure on our wall, we enjoyed a feast from Copper Canyon that mom's friends brought with them. We also read through the cards from everyone who contributed financially to the gift. Thank you. Every one. We saw each name. Mama cried through them (ps. Heather, she promised to send Alivia your love and, yes, she will definitely snuggle her up for you.) If you gave $5, you gave us this. This Championship Game Memory. Next time you're at our home, please make sure you look at the painting. Call to mind mom's beautiful response. Thank God for good things such as these. We're so grateful. Thank you over and over. And Tracy, thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty. I know you love my mom. Your love, ideas and presence have been God to us. Thank you. You hit a three to go into halftime.
Ps. Wasn't my mom beautiful?