Last week Saturday morning, I woke up to the news that my college basketball coach my Junior and Senior year, Liz Metcalfe, passed away. After a grueling battle with cancer, she went home to be with Jesus. I knew it was coming as she asked us all to pray her home starting the Tuesday before. So, I dug out my Troll practice jersey, wore it with pride, and prayed fervently for Jesus to take coach home.
Obviously, I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing over the past few weeks and am thankful for some snapshots (literal and figurative) that represent my relationship with Met.
Met’s sense of humor. Find me another college basketball coach who, after losing in the NCCAA national tournament, proudly holds up #6 with her team. Met’s sense of humor grounded us and kept things in perspective – after all, basketball is a game and it should be fun. Passionate fun.
Another snapshot came earlier on in that year. I’m not known for being the smoothest person around, and I managed to epically trip over a line and slam to the floor during practice. Everyone stopped, looked at Met, waited to see what she would say or do. She came over and said, “let me show you how to make a backdoor cut;” I was embarrassed, until Met mimicked my disastrous fall – she had us all rolling on the ground laughing. I’m not sure how we managed to practice after that.
Two snapshots opened my senior year: first, Met sitting down with Lynda and me and expressing her trust in us as the only seniors and captains. I felt empowered and valued as a leader and knew that she had my back. I understood my role – even if my teammates didn’t (they did once they were seniors…). I’m thankful for that taste of empowerment and leadership.
Unfortunately, shortly after that meeting, I sprained my ankle. Shari and I decided to pull one over on Met and Shari sent me out into the gym in a boot and on crutches. Met almost cried. When she said, “I don’t know what God’s doing with this season, but I have to trust him,” I knew the joke went too far. I tossed the crutches and boots and I can still feel the whiz of the crutch as it flew by my ear as she chased me around the gym.
Then there’s this snapshot. As Brittany said, “Pure joy.” After a season of ups and downs, we hit our stride when it mattered most – March. We beat Cardinal Stritch for the first time in my four years and were headed to the NAIA national tournament for the first time in school history. I can still feel the excitement of the final seconds ticking off the clock; I can still see my dear friend Amy dancing a jig in the Troll costume right in front of the Stritch fans. Pure joy. What a way to end 4 wonderful years of college basketball.
I’m thankful that Met loved basketball, but I’m even more thankful that she loved Jesus. She gave me the time and space to be a Young Life leader while being a college athlete. That’s rare and I’m thankful for that gift. She prayed over us and pointed us toward Jesus with every word and action and crazy antic.
But, what makes Met so special is that our relationship didn’t end when I unlaced my basketball shoes for the last time. That’s what made her such a good coach – for me and for countless other women.
Met mentored me through my transition to Guatemala and supported me every step of the way. Met helped me heal and see Jesus when I experienced some scary and violent situations in Guatemala. Met and I got together every time I was in Chicago – she had time for me, she had time for her family, she had time for Tennessee basketball, she had time for her friends – she had time for whomever needed her. Met was at my wedding.
I was able to visit with Met in September of 2014, shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer. We talked, we laughed, we prayed. I cherished that time as I knew it could be my last with her, and it was – a downfall of living internationally.
As her friends and family, as my friends and former teammates, as all the people who knew, loved, and were inspired by Met gather today and tomorrow – I pray for peace. I pray for comfort. I pray for laughter and stories. I pray that Met’s beautiful name and legacy are honored and that Jesus’s name is lifted high.