This past summer I traveled solo for a wedding in Lawrence, Kansas. Fully expecting gals in blue gingham dresses, tumbleweeds and tornadic weather, I was pleasantly surprised to find beautiful blue skies, delicious food and a super cool downtown. Of course a schooled coach's wife must visit the local college campus, ‘cause one never knows, right? The Jayhawks campus was spectacular too; a beautiful mix of old and new architecture with endless green space. Seriously, who knew?
This was a wedding I just knew I could not miss since the groom’s mother was one of my very dearest friends. I first “met” her over the phone soon after I got engaged to my football coaching husband. He handed me the phone and said, “You’ll just love her!” I will never forget many things she said to me over the course of our friendship, including our first conversation, “You DO know Allison, being married to a football coach takes a strong and independent woman. You will be alone a lot, but you will always have me.” I knew her all of four minutes and already she promised me her lifetime of alliance and support. Between you and me, I thought she was half crazy! Who does that? Why was her husband never home? Must be she was a bad wife or something?
It wasn’t until much later in our friendship I shared those very thoughts with her. I can still hear her loud, hysterical laughter 26 years later. I miss that laugh and her lifetime of promised support. I just really miss her. After an incredibly brave and long fight with breast cancer, she left us and in her place is a mighty void. During those final weeks she shared one of her deepest fears with me—that she would be forgotten. We cried and I promised her that was never going to happen. It simply was not an option.
I’ve clearly kept my promise because I still cry when I think of her. As her football coaching son’s wedding approached I could not shake how sad I was she would not help handle all the planning, be there to dance with her son or share words of wisdom with her new daughter-in-law. So I decided that I would tuck her in my heart as my “plus-one.” After all, it was she who said, “I would never be alone.” Her presence would make me stronger, less prone to tearful outbursts. But then her son and his fiancee asked me to be a part of their ceremonial Seven Blessings*, and the tears began.
An adaptation of a Jewish tradition from ancient teachings. The couple pairs seven chosen people with seven words they love. These people have about one minute during the ceremony to share their thoughts and wishes with the couple pertaining to their word.
My word was kindness. This sweet couple not only gift-wrapped the perfect word for me but the chance to keep a promise to my dear friend. It was her single act of kindness so many years ago that created a friendship capable of surviving countless moves, states, time zones and teams. This was my chance to share this story and reassure his new bride that though she will be alone a lot, she will always have me! After all, we are now football family.
As you might expect, their wedding weekend was filled with tears of all kinds. Their ceremony and the Seven Blessings were emotional, heartfelt, truthful, genuine and from the deepest part of each person’s heart. Not sure if it was that, in conjunction with the setting, food and unseasonably warm weather but though my friend was nowhere to be seen, she was far from forgotten.
A little thing you should know: At a football family wedding, six degrees of separation is more like two degrees. I saw people we’ve rivaled and others we’ve coached alongside. I hugged old friends, then turned around and hugged brand new ones. Every one of these people are my extended football family. We are one. We understand. We “get" our lifestyle. They “got” exactly why I was solo! We all appreciate how uncertain our life can be. But that day, we were all on the same team; celebrating, cheering, supporting and remembering.
If you need a place to make a donation to help find a cure for cancer so it stops stealing our loved ones from us … It's with kindness that I share this link to my daughter’s Relay for Life team page at college!