Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We Are Not Alone

Small-town living has a bad rap. There's nothing for anyone to do. The kids are all bored. You grow up there, and live there, and are stuck there.

But then on the flip side of the coin, growing up in a small town is also one of the best things in the world. Everyone knows you, and knows your family, and when times get  hard, we take care of our own. Even if you don't have money, you pitch in to help. Oh, sure, we can be selfish and jealous and petty just like anyone, but in tragedy, we change.

Saturday I was sitting in my home away from home. As many of y'all know, I joke that I grew up in the Coliseum. I've played princess and detectives and climbed up on the backstops for the ballgoals (before the nice, new ones with the breakaway rims). I've played hide and seek and dreaded going past the boiler room because... well, I know Freddy Kreuger isn't real, but those cheerleaders sure had me convinced he was when I was seven or eight. I cheered my last ballgame in that gym. I've sang and laughed and cried...

Tomorrow, though, I'll do something I've never done in that gym. I'll sit and listen to ministers try to put into words the legend of Peggy Moore and her husband Leon. I know and they know they'll not do it justice, because there are no words, nor are there any words to offer for the heaviness we all feel... for Kyle, Kevin, and the family, for our kids in school right now, for the hundreds of kids who live out Peggy's legacy every day of their lives.

For as long as I can remember, Peggy seemed like a superstar. I was in awe of she and Irene, sisters- in- law who paved the way for Eastern Kentucky Girls basketball. Two little girls who shaped the sport for generations to come. I grew up with stories of their athleticism.

I can't remember visiting the store at Whick much, but I know we did, because I can remember loading up and going to Aunt Essie's house. They were family, and family runs deep in these parts. I cheered for Kyle as we won that second state championship, and to say I was proud of the Arrowood connection would be an understatement.

Wallace coached against Peggy when he was at Owsley and I was always quick to remind him that she was family. I was proud of her, proud to be associated with her because of who she was on and off the court. Simple. Quiet. Humble. Full of accomplishments but never boastful. And she had played professional basketball!  And baseball with the boys!  And she still could!!!

Leon was always there, quiet, unless you knew him. Not in the spotlight.

And then Wallace went to Breathitt and Kyle became head football coach.  I started helping in the concession stand for JV games and in the Bobcat stores and with whatever the boss Lisa Gross told me to do, because, again, that's what family do. You take care of each other. I came to know Peg and Leon in a different way. I saw firsthand how much they loved their granddaughters. Natalie, Haley, and Elizabeth were the light of their lives. How I love those girls!  They bring smiles to my face.

Leon fast became one of Wallace's favorite people on earth. They'd cut up and joke and try to cause trouble. Wallace would often come home from work telling me about a Leon story Kyle had shared at work. He was thrilled when Leon and Peggy started coming to church, because they took a void that had been left with my Mamaw Na's passing. When he couldn't rib Mamaw Na about something, he'd rib Leon. And Leon would give it right back!

I saw a softer, gentler side to them both. Saturday at the JV tourney Melody had come with me and I had sat her down to pace along the sideline, just like Holly, Kami, and I had done when we were little. Peggy was sitting on the bench, hands clasped in between her knees. Gentry was coaching on the other sideline. Melody reached out and patted Peg on the back and Peggy turned around and waved and smiled.

That smile is in my head.

That smile is why it didn't seem real when someone told me that afternoon that they had been in a wreck.

She had just been there.

I looked up at the banners on the stage, those banners that she had helped hang, and thought it has to be a mistake.

Sunday morning I woke up thinking it had to be a mistake.

I still wish it was.

My Mom said that 2016 has been a year of loss, and that statement rings true. We can't make sense of a tragedy like this...

but my hope and consolation is that through small town living, we are not alone. We have each other, and it is my utmost hope and prayer that the Moore family know that while we can't imagine their grief, we grieve with them. They are not alone.

Tonight and tomorrow, I'll find comfort in that as I love on my basketball and volleyball players, as I pat on those football players in their jerseys, as I hug my family.

We are not alone, because we have each other.

And we have God, who understands our sorrows. He even understands when we get hurt at him because things happen. Even Jesus felt forsaken.

Even then, though...

He wasn't alone.

Continued prayers for my Moore family, my Bobcat family, and all who mourn the passing of Peggy and Leon Moore. Legends who left a legacy that will continue to inspire...

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