To the reader: Sympathy is not what I am looking for with this writing. My only hope is that after reading, you take a little time out of your day to be thankful for your life and those in it.
I once heard that life is a culmination of every event we have been in, every person we have met, and every decision we have made. Each situation could possess the ability to hold all of our attention and take over every minute of our day. But how often do we take the time to be thankful for what we are given?
Hockey, in most of our lives has been a constant, the one thing that even if school was going wrong, we were in a fight with a family member, or we just were in a bad mood, has been there to pick us up and put us back in place. As I recently concluded my final season of collegiate hockey something happened in my life that made me even more thankful that I have been blessed with the sport of hockey, while showing me that there is much more to life.
On March 7, 2012, my older brother was shot through the back of his neck while serving with the United States Army in Afghanistan. My brother has always been lucky, every split the pot ticket he ever held, turned out to be the winning one, and his number in hockey was always #7(as a semi-superstitious athlete I note the parallel of his #7 and the date). His time in Afghanistan, was no different. While my brother was pushing two of his men out of harms way the bullet entered his neck, missed his spinal cord, brain stem, and jugular, but broke his jaw and exited through his cheek. Luck. The philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”, I don’t give all the credit to luck. My brother is an incredible leader. Four days before he was hit, he wrote me via Facebook about some of his men and I had asked him if he ever gets scared while out there. He responded saying that he knew I’d think it crazy, but he felt as though the training he had been in prior to deployment made all the situations he encountered feel “normal,” and that he didn’t get scared because he was responsible for all his men, and he needed to stay, “Calm, cool, and collected, non-stop. Because they all look up to me for guidance.” When I heard that my brother was shot pushing other people out of the way, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Three weeks before this happened I was asked to do an interview about what life has in store for female athletes after college. The focus of the piece was to show that I was confident going into the workforce after attending my university and competing for my team. But at that time, all I could focus on, was the present, and how fortunate I was. Fortunate enough to be able to play hockey, attend college, and fortunate enough to have a brother, willing to fight for it.
They asked me, "How does it feel knowing that your hockey playing career is about to end?"
If I would have been asked this question at the beginning of the year I would have had a completely different answer, probably saying something like, “I’ll be miserable for a while. I don’t know what I’ll do with all of my time, I don’t want it to end.” But my brother (and his deployment), as he has done my entire life, had recently taught me another lesson. There are things in the world that make any problem I’ve ever had seem so small. As I sat there thinking about how to answer their question all I could think about was my brother, my best friend, and about how proud I am of him and all that he has taught me. I could never have sat there and complained that my hockey career was about to be over when my brother was a world away fighting in a war so that I had the opportunity to finish that career.
Hearing my brother had been shot and survived made that picture even bigger. It didn’t matter that my hockey career was over, what mattered was that my brother was breathing. And yet again, as he had done my entire life, he taught another lesson, that there really is purpose in life, and that not even a bullet can stop it.
Hockey taught me how to be strong even when in a lot of pain. My coaches have taught me the meanings of courage, strength, determination, and honor. My teammates have showed me that no two people are alike but that when united, the impossible can be captured. My family needed me to be strong for them, my parents who have done everything for me and who have always been there, now needed me to be there for them. Hockey taught me how to have faith, to believe that everything was going to be okay, and how to be depended on, even if I was hurting too.
I am so lucky to live the life I do. I will be the first to give credit to the game of hockey for the person I am today. Credit to my parents for getting me to every practice and game and for their support, credit to all of my coaches, and to all the teammates I’ve ever had. But that’s just it…There is so much more to life than hockey, it’s the people we meet, it’s the lessons we learn, it’s where it takes us…life is a culmination of every event we have been in, every person we have met, and every decision we have made. So life without playing hockey, will be okay. Life, is not just hockey, life is what we make of it, and hockey is what helps us become the people we are meant to be.
This article is dedicated, to my incredible parents, my brother and sister, all of my family and friends.
(side note: My brother received surgery on his jaw in Germany and was transported to San Antonio, Texas, where he was met by my mom, dad, his wife, and his son, and continues to recover with support of many family members and friends. He may have nerve damage in his right ear and parts of his face, but all limbs are accounted for and he is doing remarkable.)