Telling the team was the worst, I think. For those who had nursed loved ones through their own heavyweight fights with cancer, the response was courageous defiance. We could all put a face and a name with what was about to happen — the journey had a form for us. But for those who had never been down such a path, the terror was mysterious and raw. We prayed together. Whit led her peers with the wisdom and the strength of a woman twice her age. And the days sloshed on.
Pink Ladder due date, May 2, came and went. Jan Ross and I were otherwise engaged. We set the surgery date, met with each member of the cancer fight team and did the “hurry up and wait” deal like we were professionals. Then one afternoon during an itchy spell when we’d checked off all the items on our respective lists, I thought about the ladder and asked if she’d like to go down to see it. I secretly wondered if our players had even remembered what I’d asked them to do, much less gotten around to doing it. In the fog of the last few days it would have been an easy forget. And no one would have blamed them for the whiff.
Except they didn’t. Whiff that is. Our guys hit that curve ball smooth out of the park.
Their six-word memoirs graced the legs of the ladder, each neatly printed in individual fonts. I could almost see the ghosts of their personal gravitas as they traced them there. It’s really not an exercise you can do lightly. Then in the middle of trying to match memoir with athlete, we saw it: the six words, each written elegantly, yet with “I mean it” bravado, on its own rung. Our team’s mission for the year ahead: “Playing for our Rock, Coach Ross.”
Precious, priceless moment.
That pink ladder matters. And though I sure didn’t see it coming, now I know exactly how.