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What a roller coaster ride of emotions over the past couple of weeks. Please allow me to elucidate.

If you recall, a couple of weeks ago, I made mention of my ailing grandma and some personal medical problems I’d been having. Well, back on March 1, I got a call that my doctors had figured out what had been bugging me and came up with a simple solution that seems to be working so far. I was feeling good!

That Friday, our girls’ basketball team won a tough game against WEM. As happy as I was about that, I was saddened that Grandma had been moved into a nursing home that day. It was a tough step for a woman who had lived independently for over 90 years.

And then the hammer dropped. Grandma died that Monday, peacefully in her sleep. There are always mixed reactions when you lose someone close but you know it is for the best. It was a bit of a struggle teaching that day.

That evening, I announced my last event of the winter season, the boys’ basketball playoff opener. While I’m always excited to announce, the mixture of Grandma’s passing and it being my last announcing gig of the year was difficult to process.

The girls won again the next night to win the sub-section. This was expected, but we all know anything can happen in the postseason. And then it was time to get ready for Grandma’s wake and funeral.

The visitation was that Wednesday, and it was an interesting experience. I stood in the receiving line for much of the night, and it was a writer’s dream! There were so many personalities that went through the line that one would have enough characters for many books. I was handed a business card by one in case I ever need help with brain trauma. I heard a story about someone’s uncle who had been murdered, chopped up, and fed to pigs. And I was mistaken at different times for one of my uncles and two of my brothers-in-law.

So I spent some time that evening contemplating etiquette at these functions. I’ve been through enough visitation lines to know that the most common utterances are, “I’m sorry for your loss,” and, “My condolences.” But standing on the other side, I felt I had to introduce myself since many of these people did not know who I was. I had to smile and nod a lot and say, “Thank you,” many times.

There’s a certain way to keep these lines moving, and you can often see the looks of annoyance on the faces of those waiting while someone holds up the line with stories for everyone there. But I got to thinking about that. That is part of the grieving process for those people. They need time to rehash some old tales and bring out many of their fond memories to help deal with the passing of someone they cared about. There does come a point where things have to move along, but I didn’t often find a desire to do so.

How about whether to shake a hand or offer a hug? I found myself letting the other person dictate that move. I’m not a big hugger, but some people need that, so I can acquiesce. A few people decided to go with neither, citing a current illness. That’s polite; I’m sure many germs were passed around during those hours.

The funeral was very nice. There was a good turnout, and I was honored to be allowed to give a eulogy. Writing is the easiest way I have of expressing emotion, so I took a couple of past columns about Grandma and edited them for the service. The day finished with us returning home to prepare for a Friday at school and work.

And what a Friday it turned out to be! Trying to get caught up at my desk was a day-long process as my students toiled in preparing for MCA tests. And then I (and many of you) got to witness a tremendous comeback by our Lady Panthers to earn another trip to the state basketball tournament, the fifth in school history. I woke up Saturday just drained, not only from the excitement of the night before, but just the culmination of the past two weeks. Plus, the week ahead was looking chock-full of more excitement with boys’ basketball Monday (and hopefully Friday) and the state tournament for the girls beginning Wednesday and all the planning that goes along with that.

But amidst all the excitement with basketball, I also noticed some of those same etiquette standards I had seen at Grandma’s funeral exhibited during award ceremonies for sub-section and section championships. Team members receive medals, handshakes, and hugs, but also are congratulated by a member of the other team. This is an interesting process to watch.

Most kids meet the other team member with a quick handshake and utterance of congratulations. Some are so excited and unaware of much around them that they completely forget to go greet the other team’s representative. But you also see some genuine displays of emotion if the luck of the draw happens to have two players who really battled each other out on the court. You will see a hug and a few more words between those types of players.

And that’s very cool. At the end of the day, high school sports provide winners and losers. And while it’s always difficult to end your season, the ability to acknowledge a job well done by the other team sets a standard of sportsmanship that is more important than the end result. We don’t always get to win. In fact, at the end of our lives, our families “lose” us. But a life lived well, such as my grandma’s, provides a positive ending, even in sadness. I saw a lot of sadness last week, between basketball and a funeral, but I saw a lot of positives in the people who were sad, and that made for a lot of winners.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is Struwwelpeter, which means a person with long, disheveled hair, as in, “After a hard-fought game, the player looked like quite the Struwwelpeter with her hair all askew.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

 

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