Hollie Grimaldi Flores: We are family
How do you define family? Urbandictionary.com defines family as “A group of people, usually of the same blood (but do not have to be), who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other … REAL family is a bondage that cannot be broken by any means.”
Today I am thinking of the Nevada Union football family as they come together to take care of each other following the tragic loss of two young players earlier this week.
My husband and I have seven adult children between us. But far beyond our seven, comes dozens upon dozens of young men my husband has coached and mentored over a span of more than two decades.
Each year as he says good-bye to senior players, there seems to be one or two incoming members to the team that grab hold of him. They call him Coach Flo. They lift him up (literally) off the ground with hugs of affection. And he loves them like his own.
He nurtures them and brings out the best in them. Over the years he has celebrated successes at the highest levels and has offered encouragement during great disappointments. He helps them accept the losses and failures and tries to impress the lessons that can be learned when they fall short of their goals.
It’s never easy
The reality is that the more years he coaches, the more boys he gets attached to and the more likely the odds of having to endure the pain that comes with losing them. The first time he grieved the loss of one of “his boys” was 20 years ago when he first began coaching at the junior level.
One of his young players life was taken far too soon by the hands of a parent. It was nearly incomprehensible. The entire community was shaken. And, as it does, the football community came together to support one another and to try to help the survivors make sense of the senseless.
One day lead to the next and somehow everyone moved forward. But the photo of my husband with his arm around that boy remains in our home. We look at it and remember, every day.
On the flip side, there have been many times over the years when we have celebrated the successes of his players not only on the field but as they have graduated from high school and college and later as they married and began to have families of their own.
We celebrated careers that launched and grieved when things did not go so well, just like families do.
Being there for each other
Every parent lives knowing one day the phone might ring with horrible news waiting on the other end. A fall, an accident, or some other malady might befall a loved one.
Our own children made it to adulthood relatively unscathed. We spent countless hours praying them back home when they were in their teens and thankfully, those prayers were answered.
There were more than a few trips to the ER and at least one ride home from the local authorities, but overall, they made it into the adult world on the low side of dramatic. We were relieved when they were fully grown, thinking we had done our job and could look forward to retirement.
The unavoidable truth is that everyone dies. As we age, we know the day will come — and in fact, has come — with the passing of a grandparent, parent or other older relative or friend. As difficult as that is to accept, there is some comfort in knowing a life was long and well lived.
When the call came this past weekend reporting the loss of two of our football players, there was no sense to be made of it, only shock and sorrow. We gathered at the field to be with others who loved them as well. Being together somehow made it more bearable.
I watched one coach seething with anger and anguish.
“Not again,” he said. “I don’t want to go through this again.”
Another man said it was one of the reasons he no longer coached, “It’s too hard when you lose one of them.”
“It’s a risk versus reward equation,” I said. “There is an awful lot of love and joy that comes with this pain.”
Yes, it is painful. My husband gives himself over to these young men. And I think he would be the first to say, he gets much more than he gives. The reward still outweighs the risk.
There is no way to know who we love will be the next to leave us. The larger our circle and the longer we live, the more inevitable the loss, but how much sweeter life is to have experienced these souls than to have never known them at all.
Now we will hold onto one another and help those who are hurting the most. We will hold each other up.
In the coming days we will share our memories of these fine men taken from this world much too soon. And we will do our best to remember them in the days and years ahead.
We are part of an incredible community and we are family.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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