“How do you act when the pressure is on, when the chance for victory is almost gone? When fortune's star has refused to shine and the ball is on your own five-yard line. Cowards can run when they're way ahead. It's the uphill grind that marks a thoroughbred. How do you act when things are rough? Do you want to quit when the breaks get tough, or is there in you a flame that grows brighter and fiercer as the battle goes? How long and how hard will you fight the foe? That is what the world wants to know. You hope for success, then tell me son, how do you act when the pressure is on?"
I’m trying so very hard today to put a voice to what is swirling in my heart- and the hearts of so many of us who have lived in this valley for many, many years.
The nation is mourning the passing of a legend; a coaching great that was admired and revered by a number too large to even hazard a guess.
Those of us who have planted roots in this community are mourning a husband, a father, a grandfather and a neighbor. We are mourning the man who passed us in the streets, in the stores, in schools, in the Creamery, on the bike paths and in church for decades. We are mourning the man who yelled (with his fist raised) at inconsiderate motorists in town; the man who would walk through town each day and greet anyone who had the nerve to stop him, and would gladly pose for pictures with anyone- republican OR democrat. The man who walked by my house on the bike path every day in the summer; who would chat with me about my flowers, or the student teachers (football players) that I was lucky to have in my classroom.
I listened today as men and women of all ages and walks of life shared the impact that this man’s words and actions had upon their lives, and I was brought to my knees. The man whose sole purpose was to act in a manner that would impact the good of the world, the good of the people’s lives he touched, and the family he held so precious. And if today’s soliloquies were any indication, he was far more successful than he could have ever imagined.
There were many people who spoke, big names that you would recognize immediately, but the one that resonated with me was that of his son; Jay.
That he had the strength to stand and speak to a community and a nation was incredible to me. He was incredibly eloquent, articulate, emotional and inspiring. I was humbled. I was humbled because not only do I know him as the son of a legend, as a coach of the team, but also as a friend. He was the father of children who MIGHT have attended our school, and might have been in my classroom.
And as a teacher and a mother – I was incredibly proud of him today.
And so tonight I wrap a blanket around myself and I sit and think about the legacy that was Coach Paterno. Yes, there are many who are sitting in their homes pointing fingers and reminding us that he should have done more. We hear you.
But today, there are those of us who are wrapping his wife, his children and his grandchildren in love and honor.
Your life lessons and your message of living life with integrity will live on, and on, and on, and on. Your “children”, “grandchildren” and all of your one billion neighbors will ensure that this happens. And we will begin by forgiving, leaving bitterness behind and looking forward to helping others who have been harmed to heal.