Thursday, August 2, 2012

London Olympians 2012

Well, it has been awhile since I last wrote anything here, but recent Olympian events have inspired me to do so today.

The Olympics have always been an important athletic stage for me. I love them. Summer or winter, it really doesn't matter.
Records are broken, and incredible feats of athletic prowess are demonstrated each and every day, in each and every event.

Sadly, in our World today, that is not enough.
It's about GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE.
And, for the love of all that is holy, don't let an athlete who is EXPECTED to win, for whatever reason, come up short in the final endeavor.
It's all about the WIN...and those medals.

Well,  as a devoted fan of the Olympics,  and of ALL the athletes who compete in them with integrity, grace, strength, and raw ability, I feel that a little reminder is in order...


While we sit at home, on our couches and in our easy chairs...
While we watch from the excitement of a sports bar, sucking down a cold one and noshing on our favorite bar food...
While we discuss and criticize and downgrade from the comfort of a broadcast stage...


We count the MEDALS...
What countries WIN what...
Ours is better than yours...
And when our athletes DON'T win, or place, we lose interest and stop the cheers...


And Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time...because of HIS MEDALS...
And the NAMES of the WINNERS will go down in Olympic history, and they will be put to "print" over and over again...
We don't want to forget the WINNERS...


Every athlete, no matter the sport, from the able-bodied Olympics to the Paralympics...every ATHLETE is there, competing with determination, and the desire to do their very best, and to WIN.
But what we have failed to do, and always fail to do...whether it is in this Summer Olympics of 2012, or ANY Olympics...or World competition...or NCAA tournament...or a local meet or match...we, as the self-proclaimed lovers of SPORT, have failed repeatedly to acknowledge this simple fact...

EVERY ATHLETE who gets out in that field, or on that court, or into that pool, or onto those bars...every one of those ATHLETES has overcome unimaginable odds just to BE THERE.
And when they compete with integrity and grace...when they inspire US to be more...and when they give every ounce of who they are for their SPORT...

So, I believe that we, as lovers of the Game, should KNOW the names of EVERY ATHLETE who is competing in London this Summer of 2012.
Every ATHLETE taking part in the Summer Olympics 2012 in London, England show have their NAME in PRINT, and they should be lauded on a daily basis simply because...
I will be making every effort to find out those names, and will joyfully share them when
I do, because...


I, for one, love it when the Michael Phelps and Fab Five of the World give us their very, very best, winning the right to hear their national anthem played and see their flags raised in tribute. 
They add a fire and excitement to the Games.
But I also love to watch ALL of the athletes put their hearts and souls into the sport they love to be so much a part of...yes, ALL of them.

So, as I sit on my couch and cheer on the US in these Summer Olympics, except in Track and Field...the 400m...when I will be cheering for Oscar Pistorius, I will make sure that I do not get lost in the winning of the medals.
I will make sure that I acknowledge, even if only in the Spirit of the Games, the winning EFFORTS of every boy and and and physically challenged (the Summer 2012 Paralympics start soon)...ATHLETE who competes.
Don't get me wrong.
Medals are awesome !
But sometime, just being there and striving to do one's, ALL THE TIME, really...
THAT is the true VICTORY.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Saying Good-Bye to a Friend

On April 24, 2012, I got an email with the news that my long-time friend, TQ, has passed away. He was 83 years old, and had been sick for a little while. But, from a previous email I had gotten a few weeks earlier, I was led to believe that he was "improving". Sadly, no one ever really explained to me just what "improving" meant.
He would have never left the nursing home he was convalescing in...never.
So, I think that he knew this, and with that knowledge, he decided, the day after making his 83rd birthday, that he was all done now. He passed away during the night, in his sleep...
Would that we could all be so blessed.

I have known TQ...Rev. Thomas J. Quinlan...for 44 years. 
He became the pastor of the parish we were a part of at that time...St. Vincent's Catholic Church in downtown Newport News, Virginia.
He was full of fire and controversy and a new Way of thinking about religion...and a new Way of living it.
My mother thought he was scandalous, and wonderful...her view was shared, for the first few months, by many people in the parish.
But TQ had a knack for either winning your heart, or sending you out the door of the church, screaming he was the Anti Christ.
We stayed at St. Vinnie's...he had won.
Over the years that he was there, all things Catholic and church and religion took on new and exciting meanings. That's what happens when you really begin to LIVE what your faith teaches, instead of just getting by with "believing it".
There were grand and glorious Easter Processionals around the city block, with flowers and palms and bright colors.
There was the Folk Mass, and the Folk Group, of which I was a part for several years.
There was the Summer Program at St. Alphonsus Church...the first Black Catholic parish in Virginia.
There was the generosity of TQ...he had the parish pay my school tuition from 8th grade through 12th and graduation, because, even though we lived right next door to my grand parents, we(me and my sister, Deidre) were a single-Mom household.
And there were fantastic Midnight Mass productions for Christmas...and splendid Easter services...and there were Sunday sermons that made us think...and there were even more sermons that made us DO...ACT...take our roles in the community and the World quite seriously.
These things...this man...helped me get through high school without falling to the "Dark Side".
He was always there when I needed him to talk to...always.

And although we went our very separate ways over the years, he never stopped being there.

When I learned that he had crossed over, I knew I had to go to his funeral...his final Send Off...his Going Away Party.
So, off to Virginia Beach I went.
I believe that funerals...Send Offs...Good Bye Parties...are for the living, for closure...and they tend to bring out the best, and the worst, in those that are there.
Enough on that...

I saw several "old friends"...and yes, I went up and saw TQ, in his simple, beautiful plain wooden coffin.
He was ready for his upcoming Journey...Driver's License in one hand, and a Statement of Sanity in the other.
(I leaned over and told him that the Statement of Sanity was going to fool anybody.)
But, contrary to what I was assured by far too many attending that Party, he did NOT look "excellent"...he looked DEAD.
And THAT was the part that I couldn't wrap my Heart around.
THANK YOU, Michael, for being there...

So, there I am,  standing in reception area, at the door to the interior of the church, watching the show that was taking place.
I felt him there, times laughing, and at other times, not so happy about it all.
I went to Communion and the church rafters did NOT shake !
Then, during the Meditation time in the Mass, a woman from the choir gets up and sings MEMORIES, from the musical CATS.
And that was all it took.
I spent the next few minutes in the ladies' room...

After the Mass was over, and everyone began to mingle, I overheard someone say that TQ personally chose MEMORIES, and that it was "something that Patrice would like...".

And with that knowledge, the whole Send Off took on a new meaning, a new LIGHT.

I got back to my hotel, and I allowed myself to cry...really, really, cry...for the first time since I had learned of TQ's passing.
And when I was done, I knew it was enough...that while he was no longer in this "Material World", he would always be with me.
Maybe not in spirit form, but within MY SPIRIT.
For, through the decades of our friendship and sharings, he gave me something that will never go away...the knowledge that QUESTIONING and CHALLENGING and THINKING are not only OK, but are mandatory !! Those very values are the core of who I AM.
And while I no longer ascribe to any organized religion...sorry, Old Man, but I gotta be ME...I know that The Universe is ever-present, listening and knowing.
And maybe It doesn't do the things WE mere Humans ask of It when WE want It to, but I know that The Universe is very much a part of my life...and I am very much a part of IT'S LIFE, as well.

So, THANK YOU, Thomas J. Quinlan, for having been a part of this World...and for being a part of my Life.
You and your glorious friendship will always be part of my greatest treasures.