It is February of 2018 already. Time flies, and I say that with all respect in the world for time, given that four-and-a-half years ago I sat in a room at Duke University Oncology with an IV in my arm delivering toxic chemicals into my system in hopes of beating down the leukemia cells that had taken over 95% of my blood. One week later I would find out through more advanced tests that I had CLL-17p, a rare incurable blood cancer that offered a life expectancy of 2 to 3 years. This was my reality in 2013, and I spent the next 6 months making sure all my affairs were in order and preparing to not be here in 2015. Now, 5 years later, time can feel like it is fleeting and flying by, and yet I have been blessed with a deep sense of appreciation for each day, each month, each season and each year that the Lord gives me.
That day in 2013, the world was different for me and my family. My oldest daughters were single and living in Charlotte and Memphis, my oldest son, Shawn, committed to play quarterback at Vanderbilt University, my twins were four and my littlest was 2. My wife, Kate, was and is a rock for our family throughout this entire journey. I wrote a book during these years called The QB Mentor, which was published in January 2016 about Coach Steve Wilson, an old teammate of mine with the Denver Broncos who had retired and lived down the street from me. Coach Wilson dabbled in consulting with teams, coaches and players around the country teaching the science of football. I am very proud of the book and have actually re-read it several times just for the pleasure of reliving some very good memories.
One of the things that Coach Wilson emphasized the past six years was the concept of empowerment. He defined this notion as holding a dream for someone until they are ready to take hold of it themselves. I thought it sounded novel and admirable, but it wasn’t quite concrete for me yet.
Last week Shawn called me to tell me that he accepted a scholarship as a graduate transfer student to play football at Rice University in Houston. He planned to enroll in their graduate business program after his graduation from Vanderbilt in May. I still can hardly express how proud I am for Shawn, and so I called coach Wilson to share the news. I quickly discovered Shawn had called him first.
Coach was as excited for Shawn as if he were his own son, and we shared our joy over the phone. The next day Coach called me and said that he didn't sleep the night before, but laid awake thinking about all that had come together these past years since that devastating day when the doctors told our family that I had a form of terminal cancer.
"Scott, don't miss this moment of perspective," he started. “Since your diagnosis, you have walked two daughters down the aisle into marriage, you have attended several SEC football games with your son on the sidelines, you will see that same son walk across the stage with an economics degree from Vanderbilt, you have held a newborn grandson in your arms, and you have shared trips to Napa, New York, and Tahoe with your beautiful wife… c'mon man, that's a lot to be thankful for."
I assured him I was more than thankful and that my 2018 mission is to hear from the Lord what HE wants me to do with this extra life he has offered me.
Coach asked, “do you know what you did?”
"Yeah, I got up each day and did the best I could with the energy I had that day.”
“That's right,” he replied. “And not only did you do that for yourself, you modeled it and you taught it and you stood beside your son, your daughters, your wife and littles, all in order to empower their lives and make their dreams come true.”
He went on to remind me of all the phone calls with Shawn these past four years, where I assured him that his destiny was still intact and ahead of him despite three separate ACL reconstruction surgeries, not to mention being overlooked, unfairly treated, ignored and criticized the last four years. None of this was going to kill his dream or his future unless he let it!
Coach suggested that Shawn signing with Rice is the ultimate culmination of empowerment. He always did say, “don't worry that the horse is blind, just load the wagon!" I have a new-found appreciation for those words and desire for all of us to get up each day and be the best we can be wherever we are with whatever we have. Truth be told, there is both a peace and a joy, both a confidence and a faith that grows when we can commit to living this way.
Rice plays in Hawaii in September later this year. How incredible would it be for Shawn to be starting quarterback in Aloha stadium and have his family in the stands while I take Kate for our second honeymoon that same week? Wow. Is it still a dream come true if I actually never even dreamed of something so special as that? I think so.
Coach doesn't know it yet, but it is my plan to buy tickets for him and his wife to go to Hawaii for the game and vacation as well. It is the least I can do for his gift of empowerment that he has so graciously imparted to our family.