This week has been an incredibly long one. I don’t know exactly what it is about getting older which makes things always a little more sentimental. We get a little more serious. We realize the things that were important in our youth, aren’t really AS important on the grand scheme of life. On Wednesday, I caught myself saying “Is tomorrow only Thursday?” and Thursday came and I wished so much I could take back those words.
We are drawn to certain people in our lives that touch our hearts in such a way as to never quite fully know the impact they have until it is too late. It was no accident I wound up at Indiana University and was a cheerleader there. It was no mistake either. I was so blessed to have met some awesome life long friends and people who you hope never to lose track of on your continuing journey. Regardless of whether these individuals were past or present of this family program, they will always be there to support and love on you. Todd was one of those individuals. On Thursday morning, I found out that Todd lost his fight with his second bout of cancer. Todd’s first bout was while cheering at IU. He was 21 years old and having to bravely fight for his life then. He tackled that battle that nearly killed him right then and there and that is when everything became so much more important.
Here was a soul that was so encouraging. He always wore a smile on his face and always remained positive even when faced with an uphill battle. He was the one that was always your advocate. Todd was a man of God. I know through both of his battles, his faith never wavered. His example of compassion and kindness are exemplary. All I could do is sob in heartbroken disbelief that this man was now called home. I am happy that he is no longer suffering, and yet at the same moment I realized the impact this very man had on my heart and soul.
I should note, Todd and I never cheered together. He always took invested interest in the IU Cheer program and advocated us always. My experience with Todd came after my graduation. As an athlete, you are always testing your ability even 5 years later. “Oh, I can still throw my back-handspring…Oh, I can still throw a back tuck…” I totally was one of those athletes. I kept getting the itch to tumble. I would go to the gym that Todd was teaching at as he had a stellar report with anyone who worked with him. He worked personally with my youngest sister as well as many close friends. He touched so many lives and hearts that the resounding impact of OUR loss will continue to ripple for a long while.
I can recall this one particular moment (it was after this moment I decide to retire trying to keep up with my former self) where I was on a spring floor doing a trick called a toe touch back tuck. For anyone who knows me, I am a little spring. I need no help with bounce, power, or stroke. I mean, I would just assume do it on the cement rather than on a fully loaded spring floor. I had done about five or so confidently. At this time, the gym was full. Other classes were starting to file in and I wanted to throw one last one. Oh, I threw it alright. Too much bounce was the culprit and all rotation stopped. I went down quickly. Embarrassed. Heartbroken. Shattered. Todd came over and helped this old girl brush herself off again. He looked at me and asked first, if I was OK and then told me I couldn’t end on that one. He offered to spot me on a few until I felt comfortable. I cannot express to you how that little act of coach and kindness helped me muster up enough energy not to see that moment as an utter defeat, but I chance to realize I am not the same as I was before and that is alright. His understanding and compassion in that moment impacted me for my whole life as it meant it was OK to close being the highly intensive athlete I used to be. When I walked out of that gym, I was not broken. Still embarrassed maybe? But I became empowered and accepting that I am no longer that type of athlete. Thank you Todd for giving me that.
Thursday morning my whole outlook changed. When I woke-up, I woke-up to a quiet house. The dog was wandering around as I could hear his collar jingling. I went to hit snooze for like the sixth time annoyed when I decided to check my Facebook. As I looked at my news feed I immediately began to sob. I was not sobbing for Todd, but for all of the lives he touched so kindly. He forever impacted the Cheerleading world, especially for those of us in Bloomington and Fort Wayne Indiana. For all of those who met him, worked with him, cheered with him…especially for his family. I cannot fathom their amount of heartache.
Todd may have bravely lost his physical battle with this plague we call cancer, but he didn’t lose his faith and the ultimate battle. He lives on to continue to watch over us even still. That alone comforts me. Cancer is a brutal sort that shows no mercy on its victims. Cancer is cruel.
Cancer is horrific. Cancer sucks. It is hard not to be bitter when talking about this disease that affects so many innocent lives. It is hard, but then again I look to Todd’s great example. It is through suffering to which we must not lose sight of God’s will for us. His plan is greater than our wildest dreams could ever be. Trust Him always through the pain and strife. Keep a cheerful heart and never lose hope. Rest in peace my sweet friend.