The morning of Tori’s funeral started out like most early mornings -- kids scrambling to find a lost shoe; a misplaced toothbrush, or the right color of eye shadow. Before we scurried out the door, we knelt down to say a quick prayer of faith and hope.
Tori’s faith and hope were essential parts of our family. Her personality, cheerfulness and love held our family together during many trials and travels and we were afraid of how her loss would affect all the other players on our team. We prayed that our little team would make it through the day as we prepared to bury Tori’s lifeless body.
The Mountain View High School auditorium looked amazing. Purple tablecloths, strands of paper cranes, photos, videos and hearts were everywhere. I was doing a pretty good job keeping my composure until the football team showed up.
Dressed in their Sunday best, they arrived early asked what they could do to help. I was overcome with emotion remembering these young men lifting Tori in her wheelchair up over their heads and walking through the crowded dance floor as she was crowned prom queen just a few months earlier. I was introduced to Louis Wong, Mountain View’s new football coach, and thanked him for bringing his boys to volunteer their time, especially on a Saturday morning after gameday.
That was exactly a year ago and I often think about that moment when Coach Wong and his football team showed up at Tori’s funeral. I've realized that this has been a difficult rebuilding year for both Mountain View football team and the Campbell family.
Tori was our star quarterback and when she died we reluctantly buried 18 years of intense training, teaching and playbook strategies. We knew that we wouldn't be cheering her on and sharing in her joys as she went to college, served a mission, got married, had her own children, and started coaching her own winning team.
Despite Tori’s loss and the daily reminder that her peers are still playing, this wonderful game of life has taken its toll on our mental, emotional and physical well-being. It has been extremely difficult to fill in the gaping holes, learn new roles, and adjust to changing expectations. We were sorely tempted to send one or more of the children to live at Grandma's, or throw in the towel altogether.
I’m sure that Coach Wong is having similar challenges trying to rebuild Mountain View’s football program. Unfortunately, there are selfish parents of players in feeder teams whose divisive words and actions are affecting the attitude and commitment of other players. I believe that they will eventually learn the same thing we have learned as we try to rebuild our family. You have got to be strong, work hard, sacrifice, and realize that everything isn't going to be a win in the beginning.
After a year of slogging through many adjustments and letting go of personal agendas and egos, we have learned that the most important thing when rebuilding a team is having complete solidarity and loyalty. Individual achievements and goals have to take a backseat to the needs of the team. Our children are just trying to keep their heads above water, not win student of the year. Everyone in our family has had to become less selfish and more team oriented to make this work. We’ve all given up many of our individual pursuits so that our family can be stronger.
And it is working. We are getting stronger. With each passing day we celebrate the small individual victories: Maddie's first day of high school without a wheelchair; Elijah's desire to be on the student council; Emma's completion of her first Arabic class; and Malachi's mastery of finding both of his shoes.
Likewise, I'm seeing similar improvements with the Mountain View football team. Watching them score two touchdowns in their most recent game was awesome. No matter their performance on the field, I will always remember them dressed in their Sunday best at my daughter's funeral last year. These young men are winners -- in character and life.
As a family we went to the Bruin’s homecoming football game. After the game, I walked on to the field and listened to Coach Wong speak to the team after their loss. In closing, the team stood up to join him as he yelled out the perfect advice for any family or football team. “I still have hope! I still have faith!”