Because of Sam, his great story, and a simple oar we made for the Gopher Spring Game in April of 2017, we were recently invited to a closed Gopher football practice. We went not expecting much. We were just excited to be up close with the team. Coach Fleck thanked us for coming and sincerely interacted with each of us.
The Gophers went above and beyond. After practice, every single player came by, signed a poster for Will and greeted each one of us personally. Inside, I was a nervous wreck as most of them were high fiving Sam. Remember, a simple cold can easily send Sam to the hospital. After, Sean and I discussed whether or not we should have stopped them. It made me feel better knowing Sean felt the same way. It was so endearing watching Sam’s reactions as well as the players while their massive hands high fived Sam’s tiny hand. Don’t worry, we sanitized the heck out of his hands after. As always, anytime we take Sam in public, we are all on high alert for the next three days, hoping and praying he doesn’t get sick. All clear this time!
It’s not over yet.
After the personal autograph session, we had a personal tour of their beautiful training facility. Will use to say he wanted to go Harvard, then it was Stanford, and now he wants to go to the University of Minnesota and play football for the Gophers. After our personal tour, I’m not so sure his decision will waver again. Both Sean, a Gopher football fan through and through, and Will were in heaven.
On our way home, Will said, “Sometimes, when Sam’s taking up all of my time, I think, I wish you were normal, and then we get to do things like this.” I, of course, started crying. Will responds, “Mom, that’s like the third time you’ve cried today.” There were several reasons I was crying, but mostly, my heart was extra full.
His comment threw me a little off guard. You see, Will has never once complained about Sam and how much work he can be. Will is so good with Sam. I love to watch how much he loves him and interacts with him. I am happy Will feels he can express his feelings. I reassured him those thoughts were completely normal, I was glad he felt he could share them, and not to stop.
Those of you who are not familiar with the Gophers head coach, P.J. Fleck and where his “Row the Boat” mantra came from, take a minute to watch this video.
Do you know there are people out there who mock “Row the Boat”?! It breaks my heart. Like P.J. Fleck told us, when you allow your life to go public, people will scrutinize. That’s true, but you have to be strong in order to put up with the scrutiny, especially when it relates to losing a child.
Although not planned, the other family from the Pioneer Press article was there also. Wow, what an incredible family. I’m not going to lie, it felt a little uncomfortable. I imagine, the wounds are still very fresh as it wasn’t very long ago, they lost their daughter. Although, I believe, grief has no time limit. Time and faith might make life a little easier, but it doesn’t heal the pain and heartache of losing a child. Life with Sam might be tough sometimes, but I’ll it say over and over again, we got to take him home. My heart aches for those who don’t get to do that. Thank you to the Conn family who were so warm and welcoming to us.
Thank you to P.J. Fleck, the rest of the staff, and all of the players who made my son’s (and secretly my husband’s) day, and maybe year. Sam probably won’t remember it, but I know, the rest of us will.
Row the Boat!