Thursday, November 15, 2012

Faith. Hope. Life.



Faith. Hope. Life.

My friend, David Barns, passed away. From cancer. At the age of thirty. Gary, Dave’s father was my son’s high school basketball coach. I’d coached against him, I’d cheered for him as a parent in the stands, and I had the privilege of coaching with him. I made a list (which I’m prone to do), and Gary ranks third behind my father and my father-in-law as a person I respect most in my life. And his son died of cancer at the age of thirty.

Dave was the JV basketball coach at my son’s high school. He was a Division I college basketball player at the University of Detroit-Mercy—a walk-on that beat the odds. He treated my son like family and me with complete respect. Less than two years ago, as the basketball season wound down, he started getting headaches and light hurt his eyes. He thought it was from an injury he’d sustained while playing basketball, so he went to get it checked, and there was cancer behind his eye—attached to his brain. He went through chemo and radiation because surgery wasn’t a good option, and he fought. When it seemed he’d kicked it, he got married, and then things turned for the worse, and he passed away just a little more than a week ago.

I happen to have gone over the hill. Mathematically, I’ve spent more years on my career than I have off it, and all those “career” years were occupied teaching in a classroom or coaching on the basketball court or softball field (usually both…sometimes all three). I’ve also been a parent nearly half of my life and between my career and my parenting, I’ve spent a lot of time reminding people to do their best. I teased a bright, sweet student of mine a couple of days ago who read 198 words in one minute on a fluency reading. She didn’t reach 200 and she was short of the 219 of the student who read to me the hour before. She said what she’d done was “good enough.” I said it wasn’t. Coming short of your goal or finishing in second place is not good enough. I’ve been preaching that message for years and years.

Dave Barns’s mantra through his whole ordeal was Faith. Hope. Life. He continued without fail and without complaint to say, “If you have faith, and if you have hope, you can have life.” His father said at the funeral that Dave was never satisfied with second best. Unless he was the best, it wasn’t “good enough.” Throughout his losing battle with cancer, Dave reached out to others and gave THEM faith and hope. He lost his own mortal life, but the life he led will live on. Whether it’s by memories, shared experiences, inspiration, or admiration, those that knew David Barns were touched by his life. I was touched by his life.

Dave left behind a loving wife, two fantastic parents, and two adoring sisters, but he also left us with an example of faith, an illustration of hope, and a model of life lived to the fullest. By passing away at thirty years of age, it doesn’t seem like he’d had a “good enough” life, but for a thirty-year-old, his example of never giving in to the belief that second place was good enough will be a lasting reminder and inspiration to me, a writer who will never be satisfied just to be finished. My desire to be exceptional has been ramped up another degree in recognition of a young man who was described by the man I look up to as his idol and best friend. I, personally, am stunned that the faith and hope that I had in his recovery didn’t lead to a spared life. But then I attended the funeral home and funeral and walked away a believer that when one has faith and hope, he gives of his life—to others, which in Dave’s case is a life worthy of admiration and a life of inspiration. No, reading 198 words isn’t “good enough” and what I’m doing with my life and with my writing also isn’t “good enough.” My student has more, and so do I. I’m just sorry I had to lose a friend to relearn a lesson I thought I had always been teaching others. Faith. Hope. Life. That would be something that’s “good enough.” Goodbye, David Allen Barns, but thank you for the example of a life well-lived.