“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
Those words have been spoken millions of times but never so impactful as when North Carolina State Men’s Basketball coach Jim Valvano used them to characterize his impending exit from this planet.
I vividly remember his words and I still have my signed card with them handwritten by The Man himself.
There have been times in my life when I have felt beaten down, I mean who of us hasn’t felt that way at one time or another?
But it’s not that.
It’s what comes next that counts.
Jim Valvano died of breast cancer. Think about that the next time you see a pink ribbon.
It’s not just women, as you see. Over five-hundred men die every year from it. Now that doesn’t have the same sexy ring as a major disease (or virus), but that is five-hundred families that lose a son, husband, or father.
That’s five-hundred too many.
Jim Valvano’s NCAA champion NC State Wolfpack didn’t give up. They were facing one of the most-hyped powerhouse of a college basketball team, the Houston Cougars. The Houston team was led by two eventual members of the Basketball Hall of Fame. The high-flying Clyde Drexler and the one and only Akeem Olajuwon.
Phi Slamma Jamma.
I was caught up in it. I believed. I even had Houston in the one and only pool of any kind I had the favorite in.
Five-hundred bucks just waiting to drop into my pocket as soon as the slaughter was complete.
Except the Wolfpack didn’t get that memo.
My brother and I were watching the game in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital where my father lay recuperating from heart surgery.
It’s a lot easier to give up and quit than it is to stay the course and fight your way through it, but to each his (or her) own.
Trying to understand why I fell so hard so fast for Karen. I mean why in the world would I trade my life as it was that beautiful summer of 1986? I was a high-profile chef in Santa Barbara, attending acting classes at UCSB with all those blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach bunnies. I was making as much as my salary by supplementing my income with a friend, who happened to be my lobster salesman.
There was absolutely no way whatsoever that I wanted to resign myself to one woman in this, the prime of my life.
Then I saw her.
I was (and am still) consumed by her.
She is the only reason that I do not care to encounter Death. The thought of not being able to reach out and take her gentle hand in mine and look deep into her green eyes is not a thought for a beautiful Friday morning in southern Ohio.
I wish for each and every one of the people reading these words: I truly wish you love and are loved as I am.