Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Always an Eagle

Some of the boys watching the slide show of Ryne and T.

David Jones, one of our quarterbacks, sitting behind me and Ash during the service.

Donald Johnson, a coach, speaking during the service.

Todd Oliver, a player and also Ryne's roommate and T's roommate last year, hugging T's dad.

"Even young youths shall faint away and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:30-31

This verse, for obvious reasons, has always been the team verse for Faulkner Football (for anyone who doesn't know, we are the Faulkner Eagles). Friday during Ryne's funeral in Mississippi and yesterday during the memorial service here on campus we heard a lot of different verses used that are supposed to make you feel better at things like that. I'm sure that I will hear some more Friday at T's funeral. But, yesterday after everyone had left I was sitting in the locker room in one of the lockers and I pulled my feet up and kind of hid myself in there. When I looked at the back of the locker that verse was hanging up and as I read it the most amazing thing happened. It made me feel better.

I thought of County Fair (for all of you x GCSers this is like a three week "Gut week" for anyone else, you should be getting a pretty clear picture by now) and Spring practice and watching these boys work SO HARD. I would see them just fall down from being so tired and exhausted and August seemed so far away even to me and I was nice and warm and comfortable, certainly not running until I threw up! That memory is what jumped into my head and, for maybe the first time I really smiled when I thought about them. I just love the thought of them flying around like Eagles all full of life and looking down.

Anyways, Friday morning, after a VERY long week me, Ashley, all the coaches, and some of the players loaded a bus for the five hour trip from Montgomery to New Albany, Mississippi. We arrived at the church building for lunch and got to spend some time with the family. The people from the congregation there were just amazing and there was so much wonderful food. Even with all the football boys there, there was still food leftover! Next we went into the sanctuary where the service was going to be and spent an hour sitting there watching the family have their last moments with Ryne and watching a slide show. It was a very emotional hour and we were already pretty exhausted by the time the funeral finally started. The service was very nice and then we all loaded the bus again and we followed a police car to the cemetery. After the graveside service we went back to the building and they fed us again before we got back on the road. i just can't say enough about how nice they all were.

Skip ahead to Sunday night (after what, at best, would be described as a horrible weekend) and I went out to eat with Ashley (our trainer), Doug (our asst. AD), and Ryne's mom, step dad, brother, aunt, uncle, and cousin. We had already met his dad, step mom, brother and sister, and the Hollis family at the hotel, but none of them were feeling up to going out to eat. It was a wonderful dinner but I was so tired and emotionally drained that I just couldn't go to work and make it through all that had to be done the next day. Sunday was about the hardest day so far.

Monday morning was so busy, I didn't even have time to think about anything or be sad. By the time I had arranged everything and met up with the families in the President's Dining Room for lunch with the coaches, I was already exhausted and hadn't had A SECOND to think about anything else. Lunch was very nice and then we took the families over to the gym. It really looked so good, if I do say so myself, and it was nice for the families to have a little while in there by themselves.

There were about 600 players, coaches, students, faculty/staff, media, and people from the community that filed in the gym. First, President Hilyer got up and spoke and said a prayer, then Cornerstone sang "I'll Fly Away", then Aaron Greenwood, the SGA president spoke, and then four football players spoke. I am SO PROUD of Sean Thom, Bobby Britton, Todd Oliver, and Paul Adams that I can't even put it into words. They did incredible and I know how hard it was for them. I honestly don't know if I have ever been more proud of anyone ever. Next Cornerstone sang "It Is Well With My Soul" before Coach Baker got up and spoke and my pride (and tears) continued. He did so good and had even written a poem for it!

Remember Us
To the living, we are gone.
To the sorrowful, we will never return.
To the angry, we were cheated.
To the happy, we are at peace.
To the faithful, we never left.
We cannot be seen, but we can be heard.
So as you push through the tough times, remember us.
As you celebrate life's victories, remember us.
As you cheer our Eagles, remember us.
Remember us, in your heart, your thoughts, and your memories.
The times we've shared, the times we've cried, the times we've laughed.
For if you always think of us, we will have never gone.
Ryne and T, We will never forget you.

After Coach Baker spoke, Heath Stripling, another coach led the entire group in "Amazing Grace" before Donald Johnson, another coach, led us in a closing prayer. All the parents were presented with a honorary degrees for the boys, their jerseys, and footballs signed by the entire team and staff. It was just an amazing day. The links I posted at the bottom take you to a recording of the entire service, a clip from the newspaper, and local news links. The story did make it on ESPN, FOX News, and many other major news outlets, but it was all pretty much the same.

Please, please keep these families, friends, and this team in your prayers. There is an unbelievable amount of hurt to fit in such a small field house. There is so much healing that needs to be done that only God can do it.


The Holtons said...

I have thought of all the FU family over the past few weeks, but as I sit here reading this, with tears streaming down-I am so proud of YOU! You have been in the middle of planning and helping and dealing with so many things that have broken your heart and yet you pulled it together and did it! For your coaches, your team, yourself and God! You are a great example to all of those guys and to the families of the boys gone. I love you!

Jamie G. Walker said...

You did a really great sweetheart!!!! Thanks for all the heard work, heartache and tears you've put in on this to make it so nice for everyonr involved! we are still lifting your names before The Lord and asking Him to bless each of you and give you comfort, strength, and guidance as you carry on through these difficult times. I love you so much!

Leigh said...

Gin Gin me and you both sitting here balling!! Oh my I remember now why I don't get on blogs! I just cry for about 30 minutes straight before I even start writing mine!! I love you and am so proud of you and everything you have done and continue to do!! God knew what he was doing when this opportunity opened up for you!! love you...

Hicks Family said...

What a hard thing for college kids to go through. You are a great friends to all those around you. I am glad I am one of them, too.

Bev said...

Champions take on many rolls, I am sure you halped comfort these families and players. I just cried & cried while reading this blog--it takes a good friend to supply comfort and you were there. God continue to bless the families and players. I love you, Laurie.

Kristi said...

Laurie, you did such a beautiful job documenting those tough days. I hope that time will still continue to heal those wounds - as God does the real work. I'm just so sorry this happened.

Melissa Lester said...

I know the Faulkner family has been so glad to have you there through this most difficult time. I will definitely remember all the families touched by this loss in prayer.

I don't think I've even seen you since you returned from your mission trip, but hope I'll get to give you a hug soon!