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Where the Meaning Lies

It’s the time of the year when students are being recognized for their achievements. Today, as a coach at one of the local high schools, I have been asked to present four separate awards to female student athletes. With this comes a short speech. I will be giving out one award for athletics, two for scholar athletes and one memorial award. Should be easy right? Get up, say a few nice things about each of the young female recipients and then I can sit down and enjoy my free lunch. That’s what I thought when I agreed. That’s how it’s been the last 4 years I’ve presented. Not this year though. Not for that one award.

This is the first time I’ll be giving out a memorial award. Regardless of the award I’m presenting, I like to make the speeches personal and include the award selection criteria. For the memorial award I wanted some background and context. I hopped on Google to learn about the person it was honoring. There I found an obituary and a Facebook page memorializing her. This page is regularly maintained as a way to keep her memory alive within her family. It seems as though this late woman’s mother is the admin on the page and she adds current pictures to show her daughter what the family has been up to. They communicate with her there. They love her and they miss her.

I only have a short time to speak during the athletic banquet but I want to do some justice to the award and its purpose. As I scrolled down the Facebook page I saw an Ode written by the father to his deceased daughter. There was one line that popped out and brought tears to my eyes: “Meaning lies in honouring you…” Today, I will be honouring his daughter by presenting an award in her memory. I will be adding meaning to her legacy. What a privilege.

The speech is short. It was tough for me to write and will be hard for me to read. Mostly because of my connection to the loss these parents have endured. There are no days where you forget a child who has passed ahead of you. Honouring the memory of anyone you mourn is healing in some way so I’m thankful to be involved in this speech both for the family and for the memory of my son, David, as well. I will get to remember him while I’m doing something positive. I get to hold his memory during a time of celebration and achievement. Things we didn’t get to experience with him while he was alive.

I’ve been ruminating over giving this speech since writing it. What if I cry? What if this young lady’s parents are there? What will it be like for the father to hear his words for his daughter being read aloud all these years later? What will it be like for the mother to see the recipient take the stage? To see the girl we have chosen to represent her daughter’s memory with the award.

I may cry and that’s okay. Whether the parents are there are not, I know we will do her memory justice. We have selected a kind, humble, hardworking recipient who leads quietly. She is loved and respected by her teammates and valued by me, her coach, and her school. If they are there, I hope I get to meet them and share a moment of appreciation for their giving back to a school in their daughter’s honour. Today Heather Macdonald’s name will be spoken, maybe with a quivering voice, to students, athletes, teachers and parents, numbering in the hundreds, so that she can be remembered and honoured. And I’m glad because that’s where the meaning lies.

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