Spiritual Journey Thursday: On golf and good-bye

An elegy.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

-Ecclesiastes 9:11

He was born nearly seventy years ago.

With cerebral palsy.

He would never be able to go up a flight of stairs, for both halves of his body wouldn’t work together.

He would partake of the Lord’s Supper at church with a special goblet reserved for him; the tiny communion cups required too much finesse.

His ever-present smile, however, set his entire face alight with a magnificent inner glow that never dimmed, his piercing blue eyes as bright as the unclouded summer sky.

Perhaps it began with his father, who chose to believe.

Who loved the game of golf and decided his son would, too.

And so he taught his boy.

As if there were no handicap.

Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.

-Arnold Palmer

It’s a game of precision, skill, and amazing grace.

The boy loved it.

He excelled at it.

He entered tournaments, won trophies.

A whole case full of them.

I have to believe in myself. I know what I can do, what I can achieve.

-Sergio Garcia

He liked people even though many could not understand his labored speech and, in their discomfiture, avoided him.

He could drive a car and on occasion came to visit the parsonage where my husband and I lived, when our children were small.

I learned he had a mischievous sense of humor, that his brain was, in fact, brilliant.

I wonder how many people understood this.

When I told him that I had to complete a required PE credit on my path to becoming a teacher, and that the only thing currently available was golf, and that I was already in danger of failing it due to my abysmal performance, he coached me.

Brought me pages of yellow legal paper covered with handwritten notes far clearer, finer, and consistent than my own, organized under this heading: The Fundamentals of Golf. Another heading: Form. Accompanied by his sketches of how to stand, how to hold the club, body position, dotted lines for movement…

I contemplated these golden pages with absolute awe.

He brought me newspaper clippings and magazine articles on women golfers. Hoping, perhaps, I’d love the sport. His sport. That I’d maybe rise, somehow, to the glimmering, glorious heights of it…

I never did. Never learned to love golf, not even a little.

The university instructor declared, in utter exasperation, that I looked like I was chopping wood.

But I got an A in the course.

Thanks to my coach.

Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots—but you have to play it where it lies.

-Bobby Jones

He taught me much.

He wanted to be married, to have a family.

It didn’t happen.

“People don’t understand God,” he told me during one of his last parsonage visits. “But I understand God.”

I looked at his face, bright and earnest as ever, uncharacteristically serious, eyes fierce, blazing.

And I believed him.

As you walk down the fairway of life, you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.

-Ben Hogan

He lived with his mother, who cared for him until her illness and death, after which he went to an assisted living facility.

Parents gone, driving gone, golf gone. Seasons come and gone with slow decline, languish, only memories left of moments in the sun, walking the fairway, making your best shot.

With the arrival of COVID-19, even visitors were gone.

And now so is he.

He could be considered a victim. Of the cerebral palsy that marked an existence of suffering from birth to his death by a pathogen that, in electron-microscope images, looks like a golf ball with extruding dimples.

Some might say his life wasn’t fair… what if his father thought this?

I say he was a conqueror.

More than a conqueror, never separated from the love of God.

He understood.

Only a few will be allowed at the memorial today.

Just know that I remember, old Friend. Farewell. You were, you remain, always, a gift from our Father.

Photo: Chris Urbanowicz. CC BY

*******

Special thanks to Carol Varsalona for hosting Spiritual Journey Thursday today at Beyond Literacy Link.

13 thoughts on “Spiritual Journey Thursday: On golf and good-bye

  1. Oh Fran, This is beyond moving and beautiful and horrible all in one breath though he would never think so. You play it as it lays. My condolences on the loss of someone so important to you. You have expressed the inexpressible perfectly. I am going to post this on my fb page if you grant permisssion unless I can find it in the meantime.
    Janet Clare F.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh dear Fran. I’m so moved by this memorial. From it I know everyone was fortunate, who called hims Friend, as did you & your hubby.

    embraces from Jan

    On Thu, Jul 16, 2020 at 11:48 AM lit bits and pieces wrote:

    > Fran Haley posted: ” An elegy. Again I saw that under the sun the race is > not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor > riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time > and chance happen to them all.-Ecclesiastes 9:11 ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Incredible writing about an incredible human. I am tearing up. This virus, or the extension of our lack of grip on it, has me weepier than usual. What an honorable elegy! I’m sure he’s listening.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my, Fran! What a beautiful elegy and tribute! I am sorry for the loss of your friend, but happy that you have shared this amazing person with emotion, which is an honor to read. Your words have moved me and brought back memories. If only more people could look inside to a person’s heart like your husband, you, and his father did instead of being fearful of what they don’t understand, then there would be peace and kindness. Those of us who respect and treat all people equally, must continue to advocate. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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