Touchdown Jesus

The following post is an email that I received from someone whom I’ve never met.  She found out about the 29 Days Until 29 journey from her former work supervisor.  She lives in Indianapolis and I met her former supervisor on my flight to Boston.  It goes to show you that the internet and social media make the world even smaller.  Her story is a great one and I wanted to share it with all of you (with her permission of course).  I hope that you find the same sense of peace and joy in it that I did.

“Fall, to me, is synonymous with Notre Dame Football. I have been a fan of the Fighting Irish my entire life. Although I am lost for words on how to say this, there is something that makes me catch my breath every time I visit ND stadium or watch games on TV. Maybe it’s the excitement of game day. Maybe it’s the crowd. Maybe it’s the long-standing tradition of everything. One thing I know is that wrapped up in all of this is the memories of the time I spent with my grandpa.

If you know anything about Irish football, we are not the greatest team (we’re waiting for the glory days to come again, baby!!). However, my grandpa could be found in Section 19, in the middle of the uprights and facing Touchdown Jesus, for every home game for over 50 seasons. Each year he would rotate through the grandchildren and take us to a game. We did not speak much during the game, but through all of the yelling and cheering I never felt more connected to him. Every year I anticipated kick-off to the football season and anxiously awaited finding out which game I would be attending. (I always prayed for the USC game.)

July 2000. My 18th birthday. The 55th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. The family celebrated these two milestones with a joint party. By this time, my grandpa had been diagnosed with cancer and was beginning to show some weakness. This would be the first year that he would not be in the stands to cheer for the boys in blue and gold. A short two weeks later, I was off to college and desperately missing being able to spend time with him. I came home to visit the first weekend in September. Not surprisingly, I found him weak in bed, but watching the first ND game of the season. I am sure I smiled when I saw this.

I wish I could spend time telling you about his personality, his quirks, his love and dedication for his family. Actually, I wish you (and others) could have met him.

When I entered his bedroom to say good-bye, his eyes were closed. But, he knew I was there and promptly told me that the Irish were victorious and that he could not wait until next week’s game. I knew in that moment that this would be the last time I would get to speak with him. My heart began to beat harder—the type of beating that seems to echo in your ears and make you lose all sense of concentration and awareness. I was nervous. I think my grandpa could sense the way I was feeling. He reached out his arm and I approached his bed to hold his hand. He told me to be good and that God would bless and watch over me. And, for me, for the first time, I told him how much he meant to me. How much I loved him. How much I would miss him. I prayed that he already knew everything I was finally able to say.

Six days later, my grandpa passed away.

Cancer (and my grandpa) taught me a valuable lesson: tell those around you what they mean to you. Never let them guess what you may be feeling. Don’t leave any doubt.

It’s amazing how doing this can change your life and the relationships you have.”

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2 Responses to Touchdown Jesus

  1. stephanie says:

    My heart goes out to you. My father was an Irish fan and therefore so are all of us. We live in CA and when my father was diagnosed with Cancer the family decided the one thing we would make sure my father would get to do was see the Irish play. The four children flew in from different parts of the US and met my parents in South Bend. It was November, it was 34 degrees outside but the love kept us warm. Each of us pulled every string and favor we had to make this an incredible trip. We were met by an Irish faculty member – taken to the locker room, onto the field, met the leprechan and sat in the VIP club. It cost a small fortune to make this happen but it is just money. The memory will last forever. I can’t watch an Irish game or Rudy without remembering my dad. And at least a couple of tears will flow – but good tears, of good memories. My dad will be gone 5 yrs on Oct 13 – thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Betsy says:

    My husband still talks about the weekends that his parents came to visit him and how much they loved the football games. They are both deceased now from cancer and those memories mean so much to him. No one can ever take these away from you. Best of luck to you and keep on sharing, it is certainly a healing thing for you and others.

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