My point guard for life
Lisa exemplifies a star point guard: quick, smart, generous, and courageous
Lisa played point guard for my college basketball team, the Siena Heights College Saints. Yes, the Saints. Let me assure you, we weren’t saints—at least not all of us— but assuming all sports names are aspirational in a way, it gave us something to work toward. At the time, Lisa seemed a lot closer than I did. She exemplified everything you want a point guard to be: quick, smart, generous, and courageous. She could pull up for a jumper, pass to the open player, or muscle her way in for a lay-up. But Lisa never boasted. Her humble and self-effacing style stood in contrast to less skilled players who seemed to be constantly touting their skills.
I aspired to be Lisa, or at least play like her, but I was not quick, had little court sense, and my idea of being courageous was taking a dramatic fall when an opposing player’s arm glanced mine in the hopes of getting a free throw, the one thing I wasn’t half-bad at. It didn’t stop me from admiring Lisa though and trying to be the best second-string player I could be to support her efforts.
Off the court, Lisa loved singing and playing guitar, often John Denver songs, and, when it was allowed, guitar masses at Lumen Chapel on our college campus. I played some guitar, too, even though I couldn’t really sing, and Lisa showed her generous spirt again by letting me play along when I could.
Lisa, Renee, and I shared an apartment in our college years. Between studying, traveling home to Toledo to visit her large family, caring for a brood of puppies, and writing and playing music, Lisa had a pretty busy life. And on top of that, she served in the National Guard. National Guard members weren’t called up as much in the 70s post-Vietnam era as they are these days, so “playing soldier” one weekend a month felt like a relatively safe way to make some extra income as she worked her way through school. She never complained about it, even though it consumed a lot of time and attention. Although I wasn’t a fan of the military, I respected her choice and admired the commitment she made to it.
It was in the 1990s, fifteen or so years after college, when Lisa faced the ultimate test of her leadership skills. Her youngest sister, Becky, was murdered by a patient in the poorly funded Michigan mental health system in which she worked. Despite her devastation, Lisa would not let her sister’s spirit die. In the years since Becky’s death, Lisa has made sure that Becky wouldn’t be forgotten, and that this kind of tragedy would not happen again. She declared Becky’s birthday, “Make A Difference Day,” wrote a stirring memoir, “Being with Becky,” about their relationship, and has written and shared music about her life. Lisa has turned her heartbreak into something good in the world.
I’m sure Lisa would be the first to say she’s a long way from being a saint, but she is the ultimate model of doing her best, regardless of what life throws at her. She taught me to recognize my gifts, consider how to use them to inspire others, and, when tragedy strikes, to turn the tragedy into power. What more could you ask of a point guard, or an aspiring saint?
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