Each of this week’s goodbyes are vastly different and on vastly different scales of loss
The two images were overpowering and beautiful for vastly different reasons.
They were two separate home runs in separate games a continent apart. They were two magical moments that signified vastly different endings: One of a career, and a life that goes on after 67 stunning years calling America’s game; the other a farewell to an entire life, over suddenly and too soon, a moment of love and sorrow and loss somehow channeled into a single swing.
In both — in the Dee Gordon home run that marked the Marlins first at-bat since Jose Fernandez died this past weekend in a boating accident, the other a Dodgers walk-off homer and divisional-clinching shot that provided Vin Scully his final call at Dodger Stadium — dwelled some higher force reaching down and touching the game for two singular, spectacular, hard-to-fathom moments.
It has been a stretch of such things in our sports this week. On display, one after the other after the other, have been the vast spectrum of our lives, the sorrows and the joys and the eventual endings, that sometimes play out in our games: Death, hope, goodbyes, lives well lived and well-lived lives lost too soon, and the deep reservoirs of meaning that sometimes authentically make their way to us through the sports teams and sports luminaries we often take for granted.
On the day that Fernandez died, so did Arnold Palmer. One had a short life, and in death was a source of sorrow and lost promise and the sometimes cruel twists of fate that can strike the best of us. The other man was 87 years old, a golfing great who got to walk this world for nearly nine decades and while doing so shaped a sport with grace and skill and a smile, and by extension touch all of us a little bit, too.
And into this week of goodbyes dropped the story of Chris Bosh, a 32-year-old future NBA hall of famer told by the Miami Heat that he will never play for them again. That the blood clots that have twice sidelined him and threatened his health are, by the Heat’s estimation, the end of his career. And that same player, weighing these same questions of life and death and how to seize whatever days are afforded to us, wanting to play, to chart his own course, to play the game he loves, the Heat’s views be damned.
How do we make sense of these things? Of Jose gone, of Vin’s voice no longer the voice of Los Angeles’ summers, of Arnie passing just before the Ryder Cup, of Bosh and Pat Riley wrestling with questions of death and duty, of the right to live your life the way you want and the right to protect someone else and yourself from another’s understandable needs?
Life isn’t fair. It often isn’t easy. When it comes to Jose Fernandez’s death, you don’t have to be a Marlins fans to see the great fear every parent has for their child, every man and woman has for themselves, that true and ugly fact: None of us get forever.
Yet our sports, sometimes, help us process this. And see it. And find some meaning from it. Sometimes they make our days, be they many or too few, better. Sometimes they really do become about more than the thrill of the fight, the win or the loss, the confetti or the so-called heartbreak of the collapse, the missed shot at a championship.
Vin Scully transcends the game because his voice and career stretch so far back — to the Brooklyn Dodgers, to Jackie Robinson, to calling Hank Aaron’s record-setting moment, to so much history — that it almost defies time. It makes our sports one way we wrestle with the passage of our own time, with loss, with the moments that define and, as they become someone else’s history, remind us our lives and our world unfurl and eventually move on without us.
There are no easy answers, and each of these goodbyes are vastly different and on vastly different scales of loss. But in Jose Fernandez’s death, in Palmer’s passing, in the end of Bosh’s time in Miami and perhaps the end of his career and in Vin’s goodbye sports reminded us that while nothing is forever there is beauty in the days we have — the joyous ones and the most difficult alike.