Monday, April 22, 2019

The Logan Effect: An Easter Story

My fourth grade teacher had a magnificent egg collection. I was reminded of it today as I looked at the collection of beautiful Easter eggs my mom placed in the living room. People have all sorts of collections and my childhood was characterized by some good ones. My brother collected baseball cards and bottle caps. My sister collected stickers and more stickers. I shared her fancy and have wondered from time to time whatever happened to those photo albums artfully arranged with rainbow, unicorn and scratch and sniff goodness. I am still a collector—only today I collect something that is hard to show, but easy to give away. I take this collection very seriously. New items are added, more or less weekly, if not daily! They cost little but are utterly priceless. Perhaps you have contributed to my collection and odds are if you read my blog, you have benefitted from it. What do I collect? Stories...and sports offers some of the best ones. 

Greg Boyle has said "good stories come to those who can tell them." I don't disagree but I don't need to be the subject or the object, for that matter of the stories I tell. I look and listen for good ones. I like to think of stories as seashells on the seashore—pick up the good ones, carry them with you. Some are fragile; many are holy.

I have but a few tips for finding good stories. I'd be interested in hearing yours. One of mine is to read the "Letters to the Editor" of a magazine you enjoy and read regularly. I think it's safe to assume you will know a story from a good one based people's responses and reactions. And, the missive by Jim De Brouwer from Blenheim, Ontario was all I needed to pick up the issue, two weeks prior to read "The Logan Effect." DeBrouwer wrote

I've been a subscriber to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED since 1979. I've played hockey my entire life. I'm a tough guy. Your story on Humboldt Broncos player Logan Boulet (March 11) brought me to tears. It will be with me for eternity. Bravo, Greg Bishop.
Unfortunately, I've head stories about sports team and bus crashes before. By no means should any of them be trivialized or reduced to a number or statistic. Each one is personal and painful. My own friend and fellow alumna, Haley Scott DeMaria chronicles her experience of surviving a fatal bus crash for two members of the Notre Dame women's swim team in her book "What Though the Odds." I had the honor and privilege of teaching this text to my seniors in Sports and Spirituality last Fall. Her story will stay with me, and my students, for eternity, too. I wondered how this one might be different.
I don't know that I would have read "Life and Legacy: The Logan Effect" were it not for that SI Letter to the Editor. I'm not a huge hockey fan and given the magnitude of the loss—16 Humboldt Bronco hockey players—I thought it might be too much. But I would like to share this story here and now because believe it or not, "The Logan Effect" is an Easter story. The world needs Easter stories.

I believe Bishop's piece is an Easter story because like Easter, this tale also involves a terminal death and a paschal death. What does that mean? Ron Rolheiser explains this well. 
First, regarding two kinds of death: there is terminal death and there is paschal death. Terminal death is a death that ends life and possibilities. Paschal death, like terminal death, is real. However, paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life. The image of the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying so as to produce new life is an image of paschal death.
Richard Gaillardetz adds, "The central challenge of Christian life is to internalize and make this spiritual rhythm of life-death-life our own. With Jesus we are to live out of the assurance that we are God's good creatures, die to any tendency to make ourselves the ultimate reality in the universe, and live anew in lives of loving attentiveness and service to others."
I urge you to read "Life and Legacy: The Logan Effect" for yourself. I can assure you that Logan lives on in six other people as they were able to harvest his heart, lungs, corneas, liver, kidney, and pancreas. The beauty of this gift is that it was made possible because of a former coach who decided to be a donor just a few weeks before his own terminal death. Logan's death started a national conversation and countless smaller ones in a country with a real organ donation crisis due to abysmally low donation rates. Since Logan's terminal death, tens of thousands of Canadians have signed up to become donors, too.

I arrived at this Easter Sunday with a little hesitation. It's not easy to turn the corner... to turn penance and sacrifice overnight to joy and delight. After all, we spent 40 days in the desert, we walked the road to Calvary, we cried at the foot of the cross. Terminal death is real. But as I look to the 50 days of Easter, the Easter lilies in full bloom and the promise of the Risen Lord, I know that a Paschal death yields new life....risen life. 

This is my hope and my prayer for the Boulet family, the people of Saskatchewan and those who have lost loved ones in this way. Please know we won't forget what is terminal; let us hope and pray for the love and light of what is paschal. Your story is one I will keep in my collection. It is sad, painful and tragic; it also miraculous and meaningful. Thank you.
BTW: the word "Easter" in Latin is "paschae." Make sense.

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