What do we do when life hurts too hard? When it seems we’ve been dealt too great of pain? This week I came together with my Covenant family and mourned the loss of our mentor and longtime friend, Coach.
Coach Grimes has been our family friend for about fourteen years. He was 45 years old. There were no warnings. In the morning, his wife Haley wasn’t able to wake him. Coach had 4 young daughters.
My sister had just begun working with him this season as his assistant coach for the Eastern Florida State College Women’s Basketball team. He had been pursuing her to work for him for about three years, and this year, she finally said she felt led by God to do so. What timing, right? The day after he passed, their team elected to play in their scheduled game where they honored him. They left his seat on the bench open, covered with the number 4 jersey and Batman tokens since he loved Batman.
When I think about Coach Grimes of course I think about basketball playing me (wow, I know) and going to his camps in the summer with suicides and foot fire, and how every time we went on an away game he made us clean everywhere we went. “Leave it better than when you got here!” he would shout. He had a standard of perfection that he expected from his players and students. He made you feel valuable and for that you respected and obeyed him. But mostly what I think of when I think about Coach are two of the most important lessons I’ll probably ever learn. One of them came from Coach’s wife, Haley, so I’ll start there.
Haley was working for the county at the time, running all of the county summer camps. Does it sound demanding? It was. She was responsible for hundreds and hundreds of kids, what they played, ate, responsible for their supplies, and for their entire adult team. Something only a Grimes could do effortlessly.
She told me they needed to pick up supplies, for what I’m not sure, the details are a little fuzzy. Her male counterpart offered to drive them to Walmart to pick up what they needed (again, hundreds of kids, it was going to be a big trip).
‘No,’ she replied, she wanted to drive separately to Walmart. It was a little bit of an awkward conversation. “Why?” he said.
She responded that she was in a marriage, and in that marriage, she and Coach Grimes had committed to never giving the illusion of sin, even if it was a misconception. It was called living above reproach. Someone she knew running into her in the parking lot could think it was a little funny of her to ride in the car alone with a different man, not her husband. And so, she drove separate. This was a commitment she and coach had decided together. Above reproach. Not because riding in the car with someone else is in and of itself wrongdoing, but that she and coach had committed not to give off the illusion of sin against their marriage.
That touched me straight to my core, and is something I told my husband about long ago, and want to live by every day. I never want to give the illusion to someone of disregard to my covenant with him and with God. I’ve carried that with me since high school and hope to teach it to my children one day.
The next lesson is actually from 8th grade. Coach Grimes was my Bible teacher that year. He was new to the school, and whether or not we played sports, he demanded all students and teachers call him “Coach Grimes.” That was him. So back to the lesson, we were talking about prayer. I don’t remember why, or even how this came about, but this is what he said. He said, “I hate when someone tells me they’ll be praying for me. Don’t tell me you’re praying, stop, stop what you’re doing, and pray right now!” That is something that grew my prayer life immensely. Prayer is now the way that I feel most connected to God. And when I tell someone, “I’ll be praying,” I am planning to, but you know what, I already have too. It’s a rule I’ll stick to for the rest of my life.
On Friday afternoon at Coach Grimes’ celebration of life service, it was as if my entire lifetime sat with me, sobbing, laughing, reflecting. I felt nostalgic, I felt old memories resurface, remembering the loss of my friend Jordan Robinson, whom I mourned with this very same community in 2008, who passed away five days before his twenty-first birthday. That pain was still so vivid, still raw. Now over eight years later, we were back together, mourning another man who was so special. Too unique to explain, too important to relay. Though Jordan and Coach were very different, they were very close, and Jordan had been one of Coach’s basketball players. For me, it felt like losing Jordan all over again.
The neatest part of Coach’s service was hearing the testament of his closest people talk about how he had impacted their life.
Keaton talked about how he came from a different local high school, where he was going down the wrong road. If he had never met Coach, he said he would lead a very different life today.
Tom talked about Coach as his father figure.
Jared said that in college when he was going through some difficult times, he could always talk to Coach, who never judged him, but was always honest and ready to help.
Justin talked about how Coach had been there for him and for Jordan during Jordan’s cancer, and that at his funeral, Coach Grimes said it was one of the greatest honors of his life to know Jordan. Justin echoed that it was one of the greatest honors of his life to have known Coach. That there are many ships, but Coach was a beacon.
Coach’s daughter shared that her dad was her very best friend. One of her favorite memories was from her 17th birthday, where she talked her dad into getting a tattoo for her. She got to pick anything she wanted him to get, and she decided he should get this.
Meaning that God is greater. God is Lord. God’s plan is sovereign.
Jesus Christ was Coach’s Savior. And He is the reason we have hope. Coach Grimes is rejoicing with God in heaven. And no matter who you are, NO matter, God loves you too. And wants you to know Him. He wants you to know that He loves you. Jesus died to save you!
I don’t know how people without faith get through times like this. Because with faith, we have hope that this is our temporary home, and we can look forward to eternity in heaven with God. And in the meantime, when it feels like, now what?
We get on our knees.
We take care of his family.
We live without taking time for granted because we never know when our time is up.
We get by with some help from our friends.
Thank you to these babies who picked me up after my breakdown in GAP.