I grew up in North Carolina which means that college basketball was a way of life. For me, being a Tarheel fan was a much a part of my heritage as anything else. My mom and dad both went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill back in the 1950s and met on a blind date to watch the Heels play ball. Mom readily admits that she didn’t care about the date at all back then. She just wanted to see the game and since my dad belonged to a fraternity with a TV, that was good enough!
So Carolina basketball was in my blood from the start. Names like Phil Ford, Mike O’Korean, and Walter Davis were just as familiar to me as David Cassidy or John Lennon. I knew that like clockwork my favorite players would take to the hardwoods every November, and my family would anticipate the Big 4 Tournament in Greensboro that would always be a shootout. I also knew that the real ‘March Madness’ began before the NCAA in the ACC tourney because in those days, winning that match was the only way to advance to the National contest. It was so important that in high school, I had more than one teacher suspend class and wheel a television into the room for us to watch the games! It wasn’t unusual because I’m from North Carolina… and pretty much everything is put on hold during tournament time.
So yeah, you can call me a fan!
I guess all that background is the reason that an article I read last week about former head coach Dean Smith affected me as it did. Coach Smith was at the helm of the Tarheels for 36 years, four of those being the years when I was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. During his tenure, he led the team to 879 wins, 13 ACC tournament titles, 11 Final Fours and 2 National Championships. It was a storied career has few rivals today. (Take time to read the article yourself to learn more about the kind of man he was, both on and off the court. )
All that is in the past now. The once ‘dean’ of basketball isn’t the man he used to be. Alzheimer’s Disease has claimed his memory and the cruel disease has stolen the essence of who he is.
As I finished reading the article, I had to choke back more than a few tears, and a melancholy feeling hung with me the rest of the day and even into the next. Such a powerful effect was curious since I haven’t seen more than an occasional article about Coach Smith in the 17 years since his retirement. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my reaction was likely rooted in the soil of memories.
Memories are the stuff we’re made of.
The first bike ride.
The first dance.
The first broken heart.
The last day of class.
The last good bye.
The last trip home.
Everything that shapes us… Everything that we know… Everything that defines us… everything that makes us special and unique is stored in the fragile container of our mind… a mass collection of activities and events that are stuck together with the glue of memory.
Our lives are made up of our experiences and when memory fades, something of the heart is lost as well.
Maybe these reflections of my trip down my own memory lane today are just a set of loosely connected ramblings of a woman who is clinging fondly to days gone by.
Maybe they are a commentary on the frailty of life and a plea to make every moment count.
Maybe they are a warning to avoid sin and it destructive force so that you can maximize the time you have on this earth.
Maybe they can be an encouragement to set aside anger and petty disagreements with those you love and say “I love you” “I forgive you” and “I care” while you still have the opportunity for your words to make a meaningful impact.
Maybe they will encourage you to turn to God and commit yourself more fully to Him so that you can have His priorities and can clearly discern between what’s really important and what doesn’t matter at all.
But I hope that they will be a challenge to get off the bench, engage fully with your ‘teammates’, and give your all in the game of life… before your time runs out, and the last buzzer sounds.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is… Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~Ephesians 5:15-16, 19-20