Sitting on the cold hard benches of the sanctuary with snot and hot tears running down your face is not a fun experience especially after a beautiful but very sad funeral service.
Now I need to go back just a few years to get you caught up. My first season of softball came around just before I turned seven years old. When I was little, I was really shy around other people. I would make my Dad talk to waiters for me, my Mom walk me into school, and my sisters were constantly with me so I didn’t have to talk to new people. I guess you could call me anti-social back then. My parents really wanted me to play a sport though since neither of my sisters played theirs for very long. I was okay with the idea because softball looked really fun and I thought I would be good at it.
I guess you could call me anti-social back then.
I went to the meeting with my Dad and the coach there looked really intimidating. Coach Paul was really tall and skinny but he was really funny and kind too. He said his name was Coach Paul Wilson. He also introduced us to his daughter Julee Wilson. During sometime in the meeting I heard Coach Paul ask if any of the parents would want to help coach sometime. I, being my usual coward self, thought of me being on one of those huge softball fields alone and it terrified me. I grabbed my Dad’s hand and shot it up in the air and called out, “My Dad would like to help out”. Coach Paul noted my Dad and a few other dads that could only help occasionally and continued the meeting. After it was over, my Dad went to talk to Coach Paul and I talked to Julee. We hit it off, instant friends. After we started practice, my Dad and I spent a lot of time on the softball field with the Wilsons. Julie and I have been best friends since the first season started.
He said his name was Coach Paul Wilson.
My Coach was awesome. Coach Paul would tease us without going overboard and he was really funny. One day, either in my first or second year of softball, Coach Paul walked up to me during practice and told me to hold out my glove to him. I did what I was told but when I looked at what was in the glove (a worm). I freaked out and started to cry.
Now I’ll let you know, I am not and was never afraid of worms or bugs but that was not what I was expecting. That was one of my favorite/least favorite memories of Coach. As we got older, we started playing on real softball fields and since both Julee and I were coach’s kids we were sent on missions from our dads to go grab gear from our cars when we forgot it. I can remember us running till we got past the trees that blocked our Dads’ view of us and walking the rest of the way. We laughed and hustled back when we got back to the trees with the gear bags. When we reached our dads, we lied and said we had trouble opening the cars doors. They knew it was a lie, laughed and told us to get ready.
Coach Paul was a religious man. He was an amazing leader and he always seemed to do the right thing. I think in 2010, Julee and her family had invited us to their church called Real Life for an Easter Sunday service. Julee went every Sunday and I went sometimes when my family decided that we should go. I wasn’t really religious because I was young and I didn’t have the attention span to sit there and listen to the whole story all the way through. I never really felt the connection while I was there. When I started sixth grade, I started to go to the youth group that they held on Monday nights. My sisters didn’t really go that often so I ended up only going when I either begged on my hands and knees or got a ride from Julee’s family. I really liked being at the youth group. The leaders were nice, there were not too many kids to make me nervous, but I still couldn’t take it seriously.
In my fourth or fifth year of softball, probably around the same time as the church service, Coach Paul started to get sicker. Maybe a year or two after that, he started to walk with an oxygen tank with him at all times and after that, he had to ride on a scooter (still with the oxygen tanks) so he didn’t have to walk. The disease that Coach Paul had was called Hyper IgM Syndrome. The disease is one that creates too many red blood cells and not enough white blood cells in your body so you can get sick very easily. Because he had no immune system, he got pneumonia. This is what caused his breathing to be so hard for him. On August 25, 2013, Coach Paul passed away.
The disease is one that creates too many red blood cells and not enough white blood cells in your body so you can get sick very easily.
On August 25 of the same year, my family wanted to go out to Portland, Oregon to go hang out and eat at the food trucks. We grabbed our food and walked back to the car so we could eat away from the massive crowds. I started stuffing my face with my sandwich when my parents got a call from the Wilsons. I didn’t know what had happened so while they were on the phone starting to build up moisture in their eyes, holding back tears, I was ten feet away shoving food in my face. They hung up the phone and told us what had happened. Coach Paul passed away in his living room surrounded by family. I started to cry. I remembered all of the awesome, funny, great things that Coach Paul had done for the people around us. We drove back home while reminiscing about him.
I remembered all of the awesome, funny, great things that Coach Paul had done for the people around us
The funeral was a few weeks after he passed away. We sang, talked and listened. My Dad was asked to say some words about him and while he was up there, he was tearing up and had to stop talking for a few minutes to catch his breath. Seeing my Dad cry and reminisce about Paul made me pour tears out like rain. At the funeral, the one song I remember singing was Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) and to this day, every time I hear that song, I am reminded of Coach Paul. After Coach Paul was gone, playing softball was different, going to church was different, and going to see Julee at her house was different. He was an awesome person. He touched so many people’s lives including mine. Now that he has left us, I try and take church more seriously and try to set an example for the smaller kids at the church. I can still remember sitting on the cold hard benches during the funeral. I had snot and hot tears running down my face. No tissue could ever wash away the imprint he left on my life.
WORDS & PHOTOS BY ANNE CHAIKA