I've had lots of assignments in my writing career. "Interview Kutless, please." "Get a few good quotes from the Chicago Bears training camp sidelines." "Talk to the Chancellor about the budget cuts."
None of my assignments in more than 20 years of writing has been more important than the one I received this weekend. It doesn't matter how many books I write or ghostwrite or how many articles I prepare for national magazines, THIS is the most important writing assignment of my life.
My brother called last night to tell me that he had just said goodbye to his best friend of many years. Choking back tears, he told me that within the next hour Scot's family would allow the medical team to administer a morphine drip that would assist Scot in peacefully departing from this earth. For a few years, Scot had fought a deadly disease that was finally claiming his 36-year-old life. His long fight was coming to an end, and even though family and friends had prepared for this moment for a long time, no one had really prepared to say goodbye.
Listening to my brother tell tales of the past years with Scot, together we laughed and we cried. Scot's generosity to others, his friendship and his sense of humor always rose to the top of the conversation. And after listening to my brother for more than 20 minutes, I realized that his words were his eulogy to his good friend. I encouraged him to ask the family for a few minutes to speak at the funeral. He quickly told me that was out of the question. He admitted he wasn't strong enough to pull it off. We talked about how his final words would bring healing to Scot's family and friends, but again my brother declined, saying that it would be just too hard. "So, ask someone else to read your words for you," I said. This time he didn't say no. Instead, he thoughtfully said: "I'm not the writer in the family. You are. How about I tell you all the stories and you whip up something good?" There it was. The toughest assignment ever. Not only did I need to help my brother capture his words in an eloquent fashion, but I needed to write them so that someone else...possibly the pastor...could convey my brother's heartfelt message to the congregation.
I'm sitting here tonight trying to finish a book for a deadline that comes later this week. After hours of writing, I finally have writer's block. I'll push through it though, knowing that once this book is printed later this summer, students all over the country will find value in the words I'm stringing together today. But in the bigger picture, my book about one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time is not really that important. It's a fun writing assignment, but it's long-time value pales in comparison to the writing assignment I was given only a few hours ago.
I'm putting my football book away for a while. I have to write to say goodbye.....