Last week I felt as if I’d finally come up with the topic I wanted to write about for this latest post, but life has a very unfortunate way of hitting you with pretty painful curveballs. On November 30th, my aunt Mary passed away after a battle with liver cancer. To say this has shaken my family to its core would be an understatement. Mary, my aunt on my mom’s side, is the 3rd sister my mom has last in the past 4 years and seeing the way it has continually worn on my mother is something no son would ever want to see.
Two weeks ago, I got a call from my mom asking if it would be possible for my wife and I to go to Arizona for a family get together. Mary had talked to her and, as her final wish, wanted family members from all over the country to get together and be with her one last time. She said all she wanted was to see the family whole, and to see her grandchildren play once more. Of course, my wife and I made sure this was something we could attend and when we arrived, we were greeted by 20+ family members all gathered in one home. It was utter chaos and disorder...but in the best way possible. At the end of the night, just before Mary went to bed, she called Haley and I over to her, and, using what was clearly the last of her strength, told Haley and I how grateful she was that we could be there and how much the whole gathering meant to her. Hearing her say these things shook me in a way I’d never felt before. Even days after we returned to San Antonio, her words, and the thought of her final request stuck with me. When she eventually passed, her words hit me even harder and I was overwhelmed by the thought of losing not only her, but the inevitability of losing more loved ones. In that moment, I felt as if I’d lost all I cared about in an instant and all I felt was the desire to be with those I hold dearest. When the emotion finally settled, it became clear to me what I needed to write about.
Mary’s dying wish was clear; it wasn’t for more money, more fame, or success, but only to be with those she loved one last time. Now, this seems like such an obvious concept, yet this isn't how a majority of us live our lives. We’re all so busy chasing a better income, more recognition, or a higher follower count on social media that we neglect to recognize the important things in life, often until its too late. We take ourselves so seriously, incapable of living our lives freely while we shuffle from the cradle to the grave without taking the appropriate time to take off our blinders and enjoy the ride. I’m especially guilty of this. So often I find myself relentlessly spinning the wheels in my head about my place in the basketball world and my successes and shortcomings. I let my emotions run wild on the court, equating my success between those lines with my own self worth. I’m sure many of you are like me as well. What are we but our incomes, or our reputations to people who, in the long term, mean very little to our own happiness? How unfortunate is it that so often, we don’t recognize the truly important things in life until its too late? With Mary’s passing, I’ve been made painfully aware of my own need for change in my life. I’m done allowing myself to fall victim to the emotions of short term successes and failures that, on my death bed, won't occupy a single part of my thoughts. I can guarantee, in the twilight of my life I won't be concerned with how many points I scored, years I played, or dollars I made. All that will matter, is the relationships I created, the love I feel, and the difference I made in the lives of those I care for.
Its heart breaking that so often, the most important lessons we learn in life, are only offered to us as a consequence of devastating circumstances. We can’t control the things that happen in our life, but we’re always in charge of the way that we react to them. I’d give anything for Mary to be here with us again. To bless us with her smile, laughter, and her incredible way of always putting others before herself. Of course, since I’m unable to do that, the best way that I can honor her is to live the rest of my life the way she taught me in her final days. Thank you Mary. I love and miss you.