I am fortunate, the Lord blesses me daily, but one of the greatest blessing bestowed upon me was the bond I developed with a great man while he dwelt here on earth. Paul Hoover was my Cross-Country and Track coach during my high school days. A coach turned friend, a friend turned family. My Cross-Country family and I are all shattered, essentially, last night we lost our father.
Broken vessels we’ve become, individually we are just a piece of a shattered mirror. Coming together we can piece together the mirror, but it will never reflect clearly as it did once. Light is always found in the darkest of places however, each piece now reflects its own reflection, its own memories, thoughts, and heart. Each piece is reflecting the same image, but at its own unique angle and light.
Coach Hoover is a father figure to many of us, always there for us even if we had graduated. My heart breaks on its own accord yes, but my heart breaks all the more for my brothers and sisters. My friend Stanley, who is much like an older brother to me would even visit Coach on Thanksgiving day. Thanksgiving is a day reserved for family and that’s what we are. There are some people who you meet in life that you bond with better than some of your own blood family. Coach was one of those people.
I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for Coach Hoover and the team. My first race I ran a 29min. 5K, I shot out for the first mile and quickly realized that I wasn’t ready for such a distance (for I was on the team only a week). I remember going up the wall of a hill (Miller Landing) and being passed by all of the girls on the team, each saying good job as they passed. I knew I didn’t really do well. However, with each race I dropped in time, and with each race coach expected more and more out of me. By the end of the year he told me that when I first joined he truly didn’t think I had it in me, “Maybe in the next year or so you’re make varsity time.” but he was surprised that I made it down to varsity time my first year, with my final time being 21:14. Following track season under the leadership of Stanley I marked my time down at 19:12. Running with Stanley after school was not just wonderful training, but something I looked forward to daily. After that summer I went into the season as one of the top runners on the team. I set my PR at 17:56 at our regional meet and even though we missed state by a few points I know coach was proud of us. It was the closest to state our team had ever been. The following year we became the first boy’s Cross-Country team to make it to state with our school. Thank God He blessed us with such a feat.
I have much better stories to tell, but I’d like to keep those reserved for my family. They would only mean so much to those outside the family anyway. For us, precious memories are like Gold.
Coach had me ride with him down south to a dealership after I was out of school. He needed an extra driver for the return trip. I’m so blessed to have spent the day with him, we talked for hours and had lunch together. We talked about teammates past and present for a good bit. A new light was brought about him when he talked about the team. He was so very proud of everyone, his love for everyone was as genuine as it can be.
I want to refrain from using too many names on here, but each person we talked about was spoken of with love.
I wrote coach a letter a few weeks back, I’m so grateful that he got the chance to read it. I was able to tell him how much he meant to me. I have a hard time expressing my feelings verbally, so to have it in written word I believe it meant a lot to him. He told me himself actually, that he was proud of me and the team. We shared a special place in his heart.
Those Who Died in Christ
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In time, we shall be reunited in Christ.