Dateline: New Orleans Arena
I have long ago stopped trying to understand. Now, my only hope, is trying to cope.
Humor helps me cope, the arms of my wife help me cope. The smiles of my children help me cope, rubbing the dog, Riley's, belly helps me cope.
My friends, the anglers and their families of the Bassmaster Elite tour help me cope, especially Kevin and Kerry, Steve and Julie, Sandy and James, Skeet, the service crew; the Martens, Howells, Swindles…and dozens and dozens of others.
But mainly I cope by myself in a dark room with my Sennheiser headphones on, music in my ears.
Today, I learned to cope, among thousands.
As I think they did too.
" ... Mother Mary comes to me ... "
"I never saw it coming," Kevin Oldham told me as we sat in the concrete bowels of the New Orleans Arena.
I didn't say this in the story, "Angels & Heroes," because we wanted to keep it a surprise for Kevin, but all along we had planned to give Kevin the best seat in the house for the Bassmaster Classic weigh-in.
As the anglers were staging in their trucks and boats behind the stage, B.A.S.S. officials and the Wired2Fish guys took Kevin to meet Gerald Swindle, who was sitting in his boat waiting to take the stage. As told in 'Angels & Heroes," Kevin (a huge B.A.S.S. Elite angler/Swindle fan) had talked to Gerald about pancreatic cancer because Gerald's brother had passed away from the disease.
Then this...Kevin was invited to get into Gerald's boat, and with Gerald, Kevin rode through the through the curtain and blue smoke out onto the floor of the arena.
And then when Gerald took his fish out of the livewell and stepped onto the Bassmaster stage to have the fish weighed...HE TOOK KEVIN WITH HIM.
Kevin: "I'm thinking, you've got to be kidding me, you've got to be kidding me. Man db, I never saw that one coming, never saw it coming."
I asked Kevin a stupid question, and got a profound answer. I asked, "What did it feel like?"
"It was like everything stopped, I could hear all the people crystal clear, I could see all the people, I could see all the color, all the lights, could hear the music, it was almost like a euphoric moment. It was a good day, db, a good day, a lot of positive energy out there, and it energized me, energized me."
" ... speaking words of wisdom ... "
In April 2010, Kevin was told he had a year to live. If you have a desk calendar you can see April on it right now. Kevin told me that he has no intention to give up, and will fight to the end.
But Kevin also sees April on the horizon. And as I patted his knee, more as a comfort to me than to him, he leaned forward as best he could, and said, "I feel unworthy for all this, I'm just a guy fighting cancer, that's all."
Before Kevin came out, Bassmaster Host Dave Mercer told the crowd about Kevin; that he was a Fire Fighter, that he was a huge B.A.S.S. fan, and that he was in very critical shape fighting pancreatic cancer.
When the boat came through the theatrical smoke, and Kevin was sitting in it with a huge smile on his face, the audience went crazy, cheering and giving Kevin a standing ovation.
"db, for the first time in my life, I asked myself, why me, why me…"
Why youv … because when you stood up in that boat and got out and walked up on the stage and turned around and gave that huge grin, Kevin, you were helping us all cope.
Cancer touches us all, takes loved ones from many of us, beats us, beat us, beats us, attacks, attacks, and there you stood, center stage, broken, battered, suffering, but fighting back.
Going toe to toe with the monster that stalks us all, and not giving in.
You put a face, and a smile, to courage.
Whatever the outcome is my friend, you give us hope.
You, help us cope.
For that we will rise to our feet, and we will cheer, and we will clap, and we will cry, and we will take your spirit for our strength.
From me to you, dude, I will hope and I will pray, that one day, you take that stage, cancer free.
You should know that I got many, many comments on your story, but it was one, a simple one, that touched me the most:
"I Love You Kevin!
Why me, you ask.
" ... let it be ... "
Let It Be