Sunday, November 23, 2008


When you have finished reading this post... please read the 6th comment. It gives the falling action for this short narrative.

“I don’t want to fall.”

Jason’s eyes aren’t usually locked onto mine, but they were yesterday.

“I don’t want to fall,” he repeated softly.

I took his hand in mine. I knelt and put my face directly in front of his.

“You won’t fall. I am going to be with you all the time. I won’t let you fall. You are going to have a good day. You won’t fall, you’ll have fun, and you are going to get a medal for bowling today.”

He smiled.

“Do you remember me? I’m your coach, Will.”

He smiled. I could tell he remembered.


“Jason! That’s the first time you’ve said my name! You are going to have a great day today. You are going to win a medal!”

“Will,” he said. He smiled.

They were delaying the opening ceremonies as long as possible (the Eugene/Springfield Special Olympics bowlers were running late... their bus had failed to show).

Jason had come to lane 16 very slowly. Very slowly. He kept freezing up when the pattern in the carpet would change, or the carpet gave way to linoleum, or the linoleum gave way to wood. Unsure if the change in appearance that filtered through his cataracts meant the floor had a step up or a step down, he stood, staring down, trembling.

This has been my second year coaching Special Olympics bowling, and Jason has been on both of my teams.

Last year he was ornery.

He was much quicker. He would grab his ball, an iridescent gold ball, and try to shuffle past me to an alley with all the pins awaiting in a tidy wedge... much more fun to throw at that clear target than the one or two pins he was supposed to go for to pick up his spare.

He sure got mad at me.

I pulled every trick I knew to keep him in his lane, get to the correct spot, wait his turn. I’d pretend I didn’t see him trying to get behind me as I slowly backed into his path, animatedly pointing down the correct lane and exclaiming what a great shot he can make.

He wasn’t so ornery this year.

His mumbled whispers this year were generally indecipherable. His fear of falling slowed him to frequent halts.

He began this season carrying the ball from the return rack and awkwardly throwing it down the lane. That didn’t last long. Within a couple weeks he was using the ramp for every throw.

Yesterday... it took him so long to shuffle up to the ramp I had set for him. His eyesight had dimmed and though he could tell when the floor changed from linoleum to wood, he could not tell if the transition was smooth, or a step up, or a step down. He feared he would fall.

Yesterday... when I handed him the sixteen pound ball (he pushes it so weakly he needs the heavier ball so it has the momentum to knock pins down...), he stood trembling. He trembled because the ball was now too heavy for him to hold. He trembled because (I could see it in his eyes) he feared the weight would cause him to fall.

In that moment, when he stood before the ramp, trembling with exertion and fear, I realized Jason was not going to be a resident of this world much longer.

I realized how fond I am of him.

The ornery Jason of a year ago, the one who argued he wanted to use that bowling lane, that there weren’t any pins at the end of the alley, that it was his turn now, that Jason is gone.

Yesterday, the Jason who had flashes of clarity, who looked into my face and said “Will” who smiled when I jumped up and down and shouted how he had gotten a strike, that Jason is fading fast.

I have had a high schooler working with me for the last few weeks. I’ve been showing him how to coach these athletes. Great kid. He was there.

Because it was the Special Olympics State Championship Tournament U. S. Bank had over a hundred volunteers to help. A woman from the bank was there volunteering.

There was also a representative from the group home where Jason lives to assist.

And there was the owner of the group home. All of us helping and encouraging Jason.

Encourage. Giving him the courage to move past his fear of falling. To have one more day of bowling.

The other two athletes I was to help didn’t show. There were five of us helping Jason. Just us on lane sixteen. I smiled to the people from the group home, they smiled back, took seats.

My heart was sinking.

As I watched Jason I knew this would be the last time I would work with him. He couldn't walk to and from the lane any more. His fear of falling immobilized him more than his lack of coordination.

I grabbed a chair. Sat him in front of the lane, the ramp before him, and handed him the lightest ball I could find.

I placed his hands on the ramp, showing him how to aim it.

I placed his hands on the ball.

“OK, Jason. Push! Push hard!”

Jason’s face screwed up in a determined look, he shoved as hard as he could, as fast as he could.

The ball didn’t move very fast. I didn't even watch it roll away.

Three games of ten frames. Thirty frames with Jason sitting in a chair. We brought him the ball, he shoved it, smiling softly when we cheered. He even got a couple of strikes.

When there were only two frames left I looked at the woman from U. S. Bank. I looked at the kid from the high school.

“This is probably the last game he will ever bowl,” I said softly.

The teen looked a little confused and concerned. The woman’s eyes grew moist.

I had her take a picture of Jason and I.

This athlete... the one who was so ornery last year... he won’t be around long.

I drove home, Jeremiah nodding off in the seat beside me.

Leon Russell serenaded.

Jason will be gone.


My eyes moistened.

This past year I lost my wife.

As stupidly unimportant as it sounds, I lost my dog.

I don’t like it.


I lost my first child.

How much of our sorrow is caused by our difficulty in handling loss?

Loss of health... loss of wealth. Loss of friendship, loss of love.

May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to You
pleasing to You

May the words of my mouth

and the meditations of my heart

be pleasing to You my God

You're my rock and my redeemer

You're the reason that I sing

I desire to be a blessing in Your eyes

Every hour and every moment

Lord I want to be Your servant

I desire to be a blessing in Your eyes

I do. I want to be His servant.

I feel loss more keenly when I believe things are mine. My athlete. My wife. My son.

But, truly, there is only one thing I have. Choice.

Everything else isn’t mine. Thinking they are is an illusion and leads to pride. Nothing is permanent. Not even the things that are a part of who I am are mine. Creativity. Curiosity. My health.

I feel unsettled. I have no clear idea what shape my future will take. My marriage is over, one of my sons is dead, another will move out by June, the last... well... he’s 18 and I don’t know how long he will be around.

I will miss Jason.

With each thing I think is mine, and then learn not only it isn’t mine, but the loan has been called in... I... well, I learn.

May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to You
pleasing to You

May the words of my mouth

and the meditations of my heart

be pleasing to You my God

You're my rock and my redeemer

You're the reason that I sing

I desire to be a blessing in Your eyes

Every hour and every moment

Lord I want to be Your servant

I desire to be a blessing in Your eyes

I am satisfied with that. I see not only do I need nothing else... I have nothing else.


Anonymous said...

That is why we cherish every moment that we are given with people in our lives.
This school year is passing so quickly and soon my daughters, like Isaac, will be moving into adulthood. I don't want it to pass too quickly.

That is one of my favorite songs and brings tears to my eyes each time we sing it in church.


Judas Hate said...

In giving to Jason (and so many others) your time, assistance, patience, friendship and love, everything is yours.

Because of who you are, how you live your life, treat others...everything is yours.

Although you are correct about nothing being ours and everything being on loan (which may be taken from us at any moment without warning as you are so painfully aware), don't forget that this is true only for this chapter.

In the next chapter comes the reward for what you did in this one. And the reward is that everything is yours. Everything that was taken is returned. Everything that was lost is found. As our shell is shed, so are pride, fear, doubt...
And so is time. Everything, every place becomes now. And when time no longer exists, making "now" eternal, everything will be yours.

ukok said...

praying here, for you and Jason, there.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Will.

You are wealthy beyond measure!!!!

Lucy Stern said...

"Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering, and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others."

--Joseph B. Wirthlin

I thought this quote fit.....We all have our losses and our struggles, but we move on and let the Lord lead us to our next person to help.....You are a real treasure to help the people in the Special Olympics....Jason is lucky to have you for a friend and mentor.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving to you and the boys....

Curious Servant said...


I got this email this morning. It tells something interesting about what happened after I left that day.

Jason did not, but then again he did, receive that medal... please read the following email:


I was deeply touched by your story on Jason. I know too that the Lord will take him soon and will miss him terribly. I thought I would let you know what I had to do. I needed the perfect coach for Jason and the Lord answered my prayer. You have given Jason the best gift of all--your love.


Since Jason needed to leave before the awards were handed out, Wayne said that we would give Jason the 4th place ribbon he earned at the State competition.

When Molly passed away her mother gave me her most prized possession—her box of Special Olympics medals. With honor and humbleness, I accepted this precious gift.

I looked at the white ribbon with 4th place printed on it and looked at the box of medals. It was as if Molly herself was there telling me what I should do. I placed the white ribbon in the box and picked up a silver medal. I could almost see Molly’s smile. Jason needed some joy in his life right now. Will did say that he would receive a medal. Maybe this is the rest of the story.

I delivered the medal to the caregiver to give to Jason knowing that it would bring two smiles, Molly’s and his.

This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for all my blessings which are many especially these individuals that show me the real joys of life. I am grateful that He brought Jason and Will together at a time in their lives were they needed each other. It was indeed a perfect match.


Anonymous said...


Lucy Stern said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and the boys......You do have much to be thankful for....The Lord has blessed you in many ways, Will......Have a great day.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

For this Thanksgiving, I thank the Lord for people like you who may not understand all that is happening around them but remain a blessing to all whom they meet. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Such a heartwarming story. We needed to hear this.

Fred said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and the boys, Will. I hope you're having a great holiday.

Amrita said...

This is so special. God bless you Will.

Paula a/k/a His Living Sacrifice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula said...

You are a good man Will Greenleaf!