Open Mouth Insert Football: For Devin

I keep rewriting this, trying to remind myself this is a sports column, not an obituary. It’s a space for commentary regarding the latest events in the sports world, not a therapeutic exercise for the writer. But every time I delete the copy and try to force myself into “sports mode,” it just falls flat. So I’m just going to write what my heart will let me write.

First, I need to go sit under the stars. Clear my head.

That’s better. Where was I?

Oh yeah. I was just about to tell you about Devin, about how we lost Devin.

I suppose some background is in order.

Devin and I graduated from a small private school with, I believe, a grand total of 23 other people. (Yes, Micah was there too. He wasn’t able to stand with us, but he was there.)

Those of you unfamiliar with the small class dynamic may not appreciate the unlikely connections that are made there. Even when we didn’t know it, our class formed a peculiar identity – and yes, peculiar is the right word.

Jocks, nerds, rich, poor, popular, outcasts – it didn’t matter that much to us. Oh, there were the typical high school theatrics and soap operas that immediately revealed themselves to be ridiculous the moment we graduated. But we bonded, even when we didn’t know it. We were the class with its own identity. Unfortunately, we were also the class that never stayed in touch.

We threw our caps in the air and never looked back. There’s something funny about riding off into the sunset, though. Once the sun comes back up, you’ve got to keep riding.

High school became memory and I settled into the next phase of life. I sometimes wondered who I would run into as time went on, but you’d be surprised at how seldom that happens.

It seems forever ago now, although it hasn’t been that long really. I don’t do a good job keeping in touch. Like many high school friendships, Devin and I shared a million laughs at the time but forgot to say where we’d meet up after graduation.

Life’s been busy since then. I didn’t just go away to college; I went to college, got married to a crazy hot chick, had two amazing little boys and came back to finish college. Like I said, I’ve been busy.

(Note to self: you lose a lot of connections that way.)

Sometimes, though, life makes you stop everything. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter when your paper is due. Sometimes, all those people who need your time but not your company simply have to take a number. Sometimes, life just happens. Sometimes, life brings death to your door.

Devin wasn’t much of a sports guy. He would probably find it odd to be mentioned in a sports column. But I played with Devin. He wasn’t my basketball buddy; he was my three-wheeler buddy. Close enough for me.

Devin was smarter than me (His ACT score showed that. I’m not bitter!), but he didn’t care about that at all. He was like me in that he would rather use his smarts to crack a good joke than to crack a book. Like me, he liked to contemplate the deeper things in life, though we expressed ourselves in different ways.

There was one thing, though, where Devin had me bested for sure. Devin was kind. Kinder than I. Yes, he had a sharp sense of humor, but I saw him befriend the people around him that others thought themselves too good to talk to. I can recount times where I watched him encourage people who didn’t believe in themselves. If Devin was your friend, he really was your friend.

So what now? How do I cope? I’ve got to tell you, from a personal standpoint, there is only one way I’ve found to handle the toughest moments of life – moments like hearing the words “Devin died.” I can honestly say that my heart is at peace when I remember that Jesus Christ loves me beyond words.

(For those of you rolling your eyes, ready to angrily turn to the next page, go ahead. I’m not writing to you.)

I’m not writing this from a soapbox or a bully pulpit. I can honestly say that I write this without any agenda other than to say my heart is healed (not numbed, but truly comforted) by the peace that comes with knowing Christ.

I realize that on a state university campus, not too many academics are thrilled to listen to a middle-class, straight, white, male Republican talk about something so unscientific and superstitious as his faith in Jesus – especially in a public forum.

Tough.

Devin was my friend. When your friends pass away, explain to others what brings your heart peace. Christ isn’t my opiate, and he’s not my superstition. When it’s my time to take the path that Devin took, I’ll go in peace and anticipation for what’s next.

I’ll miss Devin. This experience has made me remember to pause, and live. I’ve hugged my wife more this week. I’ve played with my kids more. Hopefully, I’ll learn that priorities aren’t just those things I remember when everything is upside-down. Hopefully, I’ll hang on to my memories and make many new ones. Because as unique as Devin was, this day will come again. And again.

One day it’ll be my turn, and yours. Carpe diem, and know what is truly important.

For Devin.