“Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide.” Hope Edelman
Last night my son came home from his shift at work wearing a white shirt with a purple basketball wrapped in angel’s wings on the front of the shirt with the number 23 written inside the basketball, the name “Tessa” written under the basketball and the word “strength” scrolled down the left hand sleeve. The grocery store (Fresh Street) where Brendan works supports a basketball tournament dedicated to the memory of a girl named Tessa. Management bought the shirts from the organizers of the “Tessa Foundation” and employees are allowed to wear the shirt all week in support of the “Tessa Tournament” coming up next weekend.
Tessa was a girl who, like any other teenager, lived big dreams. She was talented athletically and a bright girl who loved to learn and more importantly loved life and seemed to blossom in the love of family and friends that surrounded her. Tessa was a high school student in the school where I work and ironically, I’ve come to know Tessa in death more than I knew Tessa in life. Tessa had boundless energy and she used this energy to fight the biggest obstacle of her life; Cancer. Sadly she lost the battle January 27th, 2012 at the heartbreaking age of 18. A life taken in an instant, devastating her family and friends as they faced the challenge of life on this earth without their daughter, granddaughter, sister, girlfriend and friend.
Tessa faced her battle with cancer and ultimately her death like she lived her life, with strength and courage. It is through this strength and courage that she shaped the lives of so many around her. Not only friends and family, but people she did not know. Looking at my son’s shirt last night as he walked through the front door, I was immediately struck with the thought that through death, Tessa has inspired so many people and her spirit still resides with this community in the most special and dedicated way.
Over the years my children have played in several memorial hockey tournaments. Like many parents, I would browse through the Tournament Program and read the article dedicated to the young boy the tournament was named after and take solace and strength in the fact that at that moment my family was healthy and well and moved on to cheering the boys’ team throughout the tournament. For most of us that is what the tournaments are about, we show up, our children play and then we go on with our lives. For the parents and family behind these memorial tournaments, they are forever changed by the absence of their loved ones and for a brief moment in time they are able to share their memories and love with their community.
When Tessa left this earth in 2012 my oldest son was 12 years old. It never occurred to me that he would join Tessa’s spirit in his quest to help out the impoverished as he applied to his school’s Mission Trip group to join the call to service in the Philippines. A group of thirty-six students and teachers travelled to the Philippines in March of 2016 to help build shelter, share love and build relationships in a world where the underprivileged are often over-looked. Tessa’ s mother was also part of the group that went on that trip and part of the funds raised through the “Tessa Foundation” was dedicated to build a house in Tessa’s name.
Like Tessa’s boundless energy as she seemed to know no boundaries; love knows no boundaries. As I watch my boys grow into young men, I am reminded that there are those who don’t have the luxury of watching their children grow. I continue to be in awe of those who face the challenge of losing a child as they share the love of their child to enrich their community in the most loving and special way, giving all of us a gift, a gift of humility and hope as we continue to face the challenges in our lives with love and dedication giving us the insight to cherish every day.