CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
Bob and I watched the Super Bowl last night. Kathy and Helen talked in another room until the fourth quarter. Whenever I watch the Super Bowl, I think of Walter Payton, and whenever I think of Walter, I remember him holding hands with Helen.
I watched a “30 for 30” show on ESPN yesterday about the 1985 Chicago Bears super bowl team. Walter Payton was disappointed after the game because, even though he led the team in scoring all year, Coach Ditka never called for him to get to score one of their many touchdowns in the Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Ditka knew the Patriots would have to focus on Walter. They did. It made it easy for others, including “The Fridge,” of all people, to score. The Bears won all year because of Walter, and they won the Super Bowl because of Walter, but as a decoy, and he was bitterly disappointed that he was not used in the way he thought fitting for the best running back in the history of football.
So I’m glad he got to hold hands with Helen on Springfield Avenue in front of daughter Mary Beth’s house in Champaign, IL during that Hands Across America event in 1986. Why he came to Champaign for that event, or why he chose West Springfield Ave., of all the places he could have stood, I don’t know. But when we walked out of her house and across the street to join hands for 15 minutes with 6.5 others across the continental US, there was Walter. “Take his hand,” I whispered to Helen. She did. She didn’t know who he was.
So soon after his Super Bowl disappointment, it must have been very healing for Walter to hold hands with Helen. I know it always is for me.
When Walter died so young from a rare liver disease only ten years later, I hoped he remembered that healing hand. We need a hand to hold when we are hurting, and when we are dying. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one right there, though. A hand in memory is good, and even one over the phone.
My colleague Lee’s wife, Theda, took a long time to die. They lived in a small town, a long way from the hospital or doctor. One afternoon Lee realized it was different. He called the doctor and described what was happening. “She’s dying right now,” the doctor said. “What should I do?” Lee asked. “You hold her hand,” the doctor said, “and I’ll stay on the phone with you and hold yours.”
We need a hand when hurting. The good news is that a hand is always there. Sometimes in person. Often in memory. Always in spirit.
In the words of Gene MacLellan’s song that became a hit for Anne Murray and for Ocean. “Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee…”
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