A Father, a Son, and a Basketball

In January, a young man slammed into a telephone pole. The car was engulfed in flames, and he died. I didn’t know the young man well, but every once in a while he and his father showed up Tuesday and Thursday mornings to play basketball with us at the “Y”. My observation, the father and son had a relationship similar to the one I enjoy with my two boys—and the basketball court played a big role in that relationship. It was a place of shared lessons, emotions, elation, and disappointment.

I hadn’t seen the father since that awful day. I suspected I knew why. My suspicions were confirmed this morning. The father returned to the basketball court. I spoke with him for a few moments. I wanted to know how he was doing. His teary eyes said enough. He told me today was the first time he had been in the gym; the first time he had played basketball since that day in January—saying that today was the first time it just seemed right to do so. I mentioned when I saw him walk in I wondered to myself if I ever would be able to walk on the court again if I had lost a son—the association being too much.

I continued to think about my interaction with him as I drove home. This father’s life forever changed. I wondered how his son’s death impacted his view of the world and how he went about his days. Though I don’t know, I’d like to think these are some of the ways.

Priorities have changed. What is important, often overshadowed by the urgent, gets more of his attention. He kisses his wife when he leaves his house. He hugs his remaining children more and tells them he loves them.

Frustrations are less. Every hiccup during the day is seen as just that—a hiccup. Every difficulty of the day pales against the loss of a son.

Heaven is thought about more. I bet he thinks more about his own death. Perhaps he wishes it was sooner than later; a reunion with a son who drove out of the driveway that night and wouldn’t return. The distinction between temporal and eternity is more realized and is more vivid.

The Gospel embraced anew. When it comes down to it, his son’s GPA or points per game didn’t matter a whit. His son knew Jesus and right now that was all that mattered. He catches himself glorying in the wonder of grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.

Church has become more sacred. Each Lord’s Day, the pulls and stresses of the previous six days dissipate as Word and Sacrament are heard and experienced. An encounter with the Holy pushes back the secular again and with a fresh breath of the Spirit there is renewed hope to face the week that lies ahead.

I don’t know the father well enough to know if losing his son impacted him these ways. Looking into his eyes, I want to believe I caught a glimpse that suggested it did.

As I continued to drive home, Highway 512 was just as busy as it always seems to be when you need to be somewhere quick. I wasn’t frustrated this morning, though. I was too busy gleaning lessons from a father, a son, and a basketball.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

November 21, 2013 

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