Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A New Beginning (a.k.a. Caden & Football)

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to share this for a few days now. It’s a bit of a long story. I’m still not sure how well this will come across, but I’m going to try anyway.

Let me start by saying I had no idea what God had planned for us when I took Caden out to eat lunch on June 29th. While having lunch at Chick-Fil-A, I was approached by a gentleman whose children were in the play area with Caden. He asked if Caden was my son and how old was he. I told him 6 1/2. He asked if Caden played football. I answered, “Not yet.” He then asked if Caden was interested in playing because he was with a league just starting its first year of play. He gave me some information about it then handed me a card with contact information. I liked what we had to say so that evening I talked to Richard about it. We agreed to call the number and find out more information. I called that evening, really liked the information I received from Coach, and we made plans for Caden to attend training camp the next night. Tuesday came, and training camp was cancelled due to rain. We attended camp on Thursday night. Caden LOVED it! He didn’t want it to end and couldn’t wait to go back.

After everything that happened with Caleb, I wasn’t sure I even wanted Caden to play football. There were just so many memories and emotions to sort through. I finally realized that I needed to let go of my fears, worries, and concerns and let God do what He was going to do. So, on July 5th, I posted the following on Facebook:
“The moment I have been simultaneously dreading and looking forward to has finally arrived. Are you ready for some football? I'm not 100% sure I am, but I better get ready soon. Caden is registered to play football, has already had two practices, and he's still excited about it! Let the fun begin.”
Last Tuesday (July 7) while talking with another parent, I found out the kids can pick their own number if it is available. Towards the end of practice, I had a talk with Coach to verify. He confirmed and asked what number Caden wanted so he could write it down on our paperwork. I said I needed to check with Caden to see if he wanted to use his brother’s number in Caleb’s memory. Coach asked me to explain. I told him how Caleb was in his first year of football when he was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. I further explained that his team won the city championship, and we were presented with the team trophy after Caleb died. And during the start of the next season, we were presented with a team jersey to honor him.

Coach said if Caden did want to use Caleb’s number, it would be his and just let him know. He then asked if it would be okay to play a game in Caleb’s memory. I said that would be fine and thanks for considering it. I asked if it would be possible to have one of the September games be the game for Caleb since September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I also said the Childhood Cancer Awareness community has been trying for a few years to get the NFL to “Go Gold” in September in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness month. He didn’t see a problem with that request.

After practice, I talked to Caden. I told him the decision was totally up to him. It would not hurt my feelings one way or the other. He chose to use Caleb’s number. We let Coach know before we left and thought that was the end of it. I relayed the information to Richard that evening and we were both kinda pleasantly surprised about the situation. Well, that’s when things got interesting…

Late Wednesday night (July 8), I received a text from Coach that said:
“Mr. and Mrs. Huffines, I sincerely apologize for the late text. I wanted to let you know that, after speaking with our board members and coaching staff, we’ve decided to dedicate our season to the memory of your son. We’ve decided to switch our color scheme from purple to gold. That way we’re not only wearing gold in September, but year around. We’re also going to present you guys with a game jersey to add to the collection you have for him. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow at practice. Have a blessed night.”
I didn’t even read the text until Thursday morning and when I did, I shared it with Richard. We were both blown away by such an awesome gesture. It was more than we would have ever thought. Just one game was a privilege. When I talked to Coach about it that evening, he said that it had been really heavy on his heart after we talked, and he really felt that it was something he needed to do. He said the entire Board and coaching staff was totally on board with it.

He asked me how old Caleb would have been for this football season. I told him Caleb would have turned 10 on August 20th. Coach told me which age division Caleb would have been in. He surprised me even more when he said we would receive a team jersey not only for this year, but also for every year Caleb would have played until he aged out of the program at 14. He also said that no one else on that team would be able to wear #89 during that time. (Caden will be able to wear #89 since he is in a different age bracket.) He said the players would also have Caleb’s initials on their jerseys and have the gold cancer ribbon on their pants as an additional way to honor Caleb.

There are several other things we’ve seen and heard that would take up too much time to share. Needless to say, we are so very honored to be a part of such a great organization. We know we have made the right choice in choosing the team we did for Caden. God is so extraordinary. Never would I have imagined this type of situation happening to us. God still shows us how much He loves us and is taking care of us.

Caleb is not forgotten, nor will he ever be.

Caleb's first day of football practice (July 5, 2010).

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

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