Dr. Mills was quiet but friendly. On Thursday nights he was always the one who brought his 11 year old son Isaiah to flag football practice. Most parents drop off their kids and come back an hour later to pick them up when practice is over. Standing over in the corner of the gym wearing a baseball cap, Dr. Mills would always stay to watch the whole practice.
Isaiah is the best player on our team. He's also the most fun to coach; not even so much because he's such a gifted athlete, but because he has such a great attitude. Honestly, I love this kid and I've loved coaching him. I love encouraging him. I love teaching him. I love looking him in the eye and seeing him smile.
Last night we got crushed. I was physically at the game but I was not there. Isaiah was not there either.
Last week Isaiah and his father were skiing when Dr. Mills flew off the backside of an icy slope, suffered severe multiple injuries, and bled to death on the mountain. The ski patrol resuscitated him but brain function was gone. On Tuesday, Dr. Mills (Isaiah's dad) passed away.
Isaiah's life is forever changed. His dad is gone and won't be coming back. Isaiah will come to practice next week and there won't be a man standing in the corner of the gym delighting in him, driving home with him, sitting next to him in the car, and later tucking him into bed.
Isaiah is about to walk into the most life defining yet emotionally and physically turbulent years of his young life without his dad to walk the journey with him.
The sadness and loneliness of this truth is overwhelming to me today as I write this. There will be teachers who take an interest in Isaiah. There will be coaches like me who take the initiative in his life. There will be relatives who will seek to fill the vacuum that was created on that mountainside last week. But no one will fill it. Not like a dad can.
I'm sad today. And lonely . . . remembering back to what it was like growing up without my dad. Praying for Isaiah and wondering how his life will be different now.