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She Left It All On the Field

Dear Chicky,

I thought about the best way to blog about the events that transpired the last couple of days, and I decided that the most fitting format would be in the form of a letter…to you (not exactly private, though, since I am writing on a public forum).

I remember when Daddy and I dropped you off for the first time at school.

We were so upset at having to let you go but excited for you at the same time.  We wanted so badly for you to have a great soccer experience because that was what you had worked so hard for.

We didn’t really know how they did things in college soccer, but it didn’t take us long to learn what our new roles, as the parents of a college athlete, were.

I remember watching the first Senior Night that year, and in my head, I think that’s when I started looking ahead.

When I saw Puma’s pictures of the girls’ cleats, given up during a traditional end-of-season ceremony, my heart jumped in my throat, and I began anticipating what kinds of emotions that I, as your Mama, would feel when it would be your turn.

Never, in a million years, could I have imagined the joy and bits of sadness that this past weekend brought me.

I had known it would be difficult.

Soccer had been a part of our lives since you were six years old.

I remember how I’d felt your senior year of high school after that wonderful final season.

This past weekend was on another level altogether.

What intensified my feelings was your injury…which rendered you unable to play most of the season.

Yet, you showed such fortitude and determination as you planned your exit.

You have always lived life on your terms, and the final night of your soccer career was not going to be any different.

As you rehabbed last week, I sat on pins and needles.

Though I wanted to cry out, “No, don’t try it.  I don’t want you to risk further injury,” I (surprisingly enough) kept my thoughts away from your ears and chose to support you.

You needed closure.

Honestly, so did we, even though this has never, ever been about us.

So I prayed.

And yes, I worried.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.

I enjoyed the hours we spent leading up to your game.

Our time the night before, watching M in her Senior Night at UCF, spending precious time with the family we had traveled to dozens of tournaments with, was a precursor to the gamut of emotions that would invade my heart the next evening.

Yesterday (Saturday), as we shopped together, we shared some laughs and bonding moments (our love for all things office-supply related).  I wanted to keep things as low-key as possible.  I knew you were nervous, and I didn’t want you to feel my nerves as well, even when tears threatened to spill over a couple of times.

As we parted ways for you to prepare for your game with your team, my stomach started turning, and I grew silent…even as I watched the boys’ team play before it was your turn to take the field.

I prayed for you even as I spied on you as you warmed up on the field behind us.

I am ever the #stalkingmydaughter mother, after all.

🙂

It wasn’t long before your Daddy and I had to gather with the other parents of Seniors (I prefer this wording to that of “Senior Parents,” which would make us sound old).

I talked with the assistant coach to see how you were feeling.

You were nervous, she told me, and not sure how long you’d make it out there.  Your goal was 25 minutes.  You weren’t sure if you’d last ten after the warm-up.

As long as you got on that field and had your chance

It was time for your senior rite of passage…Senior Recognition.

Walking you to the center of the field as we linked arms, felt very surreal.

Was this really happening?

Were you really wearing a shirt that said Senior with your name across it?

How in the heck was this possible?

It’s almost a blur now, but I remember the cheers…cheers for YOU, my sweet daughter…recognition for all that YOU had done for Southeastern Women’s Soccer over the last four years.

You had made an impact.

But your time wasn’t finished yet.

We parted ways on the field, and I kissed and hugged you goodbye, desperate to hold on for as long as I could.

You had a game to play, though.

As you gathered beside your teammates, part of the starting lineup, I was so thankful that you were getting to do this one more time.

One month ago, we did not have this assurance.  You had worked hard, though, and God had been merciful to allow this one final night.

I watched as you met with the other team captain in the center of the field, shook hands with the other team’s captains, and did whatever you guys do with the refs.  For all I know, you could be talking about what you’re having for dinner afterward.  I think it must be some big joke on the rest of us, because we really never hear those conversations, now do we?

Then, you gathered with your team for a pre-game prayer, and I smiled with a grateful heart that you have been at a college where the Word of God is the focus, as is developing a God-serving heart.

And then it was time for the game to begin.

I cannot tell you that I wasn’t scared.

I was.

Holding my camera and snapping nearly 400 pictures kept me from wringing my hands.

I watched, breathless, as you called for balls, chased people down, and didn’t hesitate to get in the middle of the action.

I also saw as you pulled back when you knew things weren’t the safest, cautious about doing worse damage to your knee or injuring the good one.

Thank heavens you showed some restraint…very uncharacteristic but a wise decision, nonetheless.

As you deftly handled the ball, it was clear to see that you hadn’t lost your touch or your mad ball skills.

You connected passes together…a strength you have always had.

You’ve always been able to read the field and deliver the ball to people’s feet.

You came off the field after twelve minutes, and the crowd yelled and clapped in appreciation.

I wanted to cry as I saw you walk into Coach’s arms for a well-deserved hug, but I didn’t.  My emotions were going crazy.  I was thankful that you hadn’t gotten hurt.

The game went on, and I, in my #stalkingmydaughter way, continued to snap photos…namely of you holding court on the sideline.

🙂

The second half began, and to my shock, you were back on the field!!

I grabbed my camera, worry creeping back into my heart.

Oh Chicky, as I watched you speed down the field, often just a half second shy of beating the goalie to the ball, I was filled with such pride in you.

Girls pulled on your shirt and fought you for the ball, and you refused to give up.

I continued to snap photos.

And then came the moment I had dreaded.

You went down as you stretched for the ball, and as you struggled to get up, I knew you were hurt.

But you got up without anyone’s help, and as you limped off the field, in obvious pain, the crowd clapped.

I started to cry.

Ms. Barbara told me that she had seen an amazing thing.  One of the refs had clapped as you had taken yourself off the field…in obvious respect for you.

I used my camera’s ultra zoom to spy on you, once again in #stalkingmydaughter mode.

I saw you wiping your eyes, and the only thing that stopped me from going around the field to you was FEAR…fear that you would take my head off if I even stepped foot on your sideline.

heehee

So I stayed on my side, made sure you were okay, and cried as silently as I could in the stands.

My other daughter, your BFF, “M,” reached behind her and patted my leg to comfort me.

I can’t recall the last part of the game.  I remember bits and pieces.  I only know that I kept my eyes glued on you.  By the end of the game, you were standing up again, and I knew you were going to be okay.

After the game, you shook hands, and then both teams prayed together.  Once again, I was reminded of God’s graciousness and providence in leading you to a school that honors His name.

As you walked off of the field, a large icepack tied to your knee, I saw that you had a HUGE smile on your face.

Your joy was genuine, and it radiated from your eyes.

Thank you for humoring me and allowing me to take photos with and of you without complaining.  I will treasure the ones you took with me for years to come.

I watched you make the rounds, thanking everyone for coming, and then we made our way out.  We parted ways with the plan to meet for dinner a few minutes later, after you could grab your stuff from the locker room.

I’m not ashamed to tell you that when I got to my car, I broke down completely.

It was the last time I had walked off of the field as a soccer mom, even though in my heart, I’ll be a #soccermomforever.

Still, though, the emotions from the weekend and, in fact, the last sixteen-plus years, flooded my heart, and there were no gates to hold them back.

As I reflect on this time, I want to tell you, once again, how much you inspire me.

How I wish your career had not ended the way it did, and despite whatever feelings you wrestled with before stepping on the field last night, what you showed to me and everyone who knows your story and/or had the privilege of watching you play was that you are a young lady who handles herself with grace and determination.

You have always aspired to greatness, not for your glory but simply because you don’t know how else to do things.

You told me that you were going to leave everything on the field if given the opportunity to get back on it.

Oh Honey, you certainly did that, now didn’t you?

Not only did you leave everything on the field, but YOU decided how and when you would leave it.

You also managed to play a little over the 25 minutes you’d hoped for, once you tallied up the minutes from the first and second half.

Never have any regrets, my Dear, about the way you played the game.

Never have resentment over how your last season went.

God has a plan for your life, and His ways are not our own.

This you have learned, unfortunately, the hard way.

You did it wonderfully.

I’m thankful I could be there with you every step of the way.

It was a wonderful sixteen (nearly seventeen) years.

Hundreds and hundreds of practices, dozens of pairs of cleats, dozens and dozens of tournaments, countless minutes traveling in the car and by plane were all worth it to watch you exude joy in your final game last night.

I love you more than you will ever know.

Love,

Mama ♥

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2 Responses

  1. I have “witnessed” your love for Anna for many years now so I could appreciate the absolute love that poured through here. GOD bless you both. Can’t wait to see what God has in store.v

  2. Oh man… this made me sniffle… what a beautiful letter to your girl… on a special day… after a period of special time.
    I can’t believe she’s a senior… I remember you talking about high school graduation… now we’re in college? Amazing.
    I love she was able to go to the end with her soccer games … what a heart she has to fight through the pain.
    & to see even ref’s applaud – I got REALLY teary eyed!!!
    So glad you snapped all those pictures. Memories treasured!!!

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