Mar 3, 2016

Leaving On My Own Terms

It was Friday afternoon and I was on my way home from work. The temperatures had been up in the fifties; which is not bad for the last week in February here in Minnesota. While everyone else was rejoicing at the prospect of an early spring, a little sadness began to creep in as my heart went from joy to melancholy.

I had decided to stop at one of my favorite (I have many) homes-away-from-home to check on the conditions of the outdoor ice. Against all hope I was longing for one more game on the outdoor ice rink. I wanted to leave the outdoor hockey on my own terms; not based on what the weather was communicating.

One of my hockey rink rats had sent an email to all of us fellow rink rats earlier in the day to ask the question: I know it has been warm, but are we playing tomorrow?”

Someone else replied to his email; “I checked out the ice twice earlier this week and it looked pretty poor…Given today’s sunshine, I didn’t bother going by there this afternoon…

When I arrived at the rink and walked over to inspect the ice, it was a sad sight to see and I was sad; so very sad indeed and it was not the way it was supposed to be. Not if had anything to say about it; after all I was a tax payer for the great city of Saint Paul that owned this rink. They put in this refrigerated outdoor ice rink so that we tax payers could use it from November through March.

Instead of pristine ice, it was chewed up and extremely rough. Everywhere I looked I could see boot prints from someone walking across the melting ice. In fact the goals were sunk one inch into the ice. 

And then, I listened to hear if the compressor that keeps the ice cold was still running. Instead, I only heard silence as tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that they shut off the compressor that keeps the ice rink frozen. 

When I got home, I sent out a group email to communicate the heart wrenching news by writing; “I just stopped by. Compressor is OFF. That's all folks! See you in November...”

Personally, I have had to deliver many death notifications in my life as a minister, but none felt as painful as this. This had finality because I realized that our hockey season was over. 

This meant that there would NOT be one more game outdoors. To play hockey, I would have to move the game back indoors for awhile....

I ate my dinner as I choked back the tears. Afterwards, I started to pack up my hockey gear; inquiring of Cathy If I could leave it all out just one more week…She agreed knowing that death is something that one processes over time.

As I brushed away the gloominess that rested over me like the London fog, I decided to check my email as I started on my journey through the Valley of Baca. 

In the IN-Box was an email from a different rink rat written to the whole group. He wrote; “Just went by Palace Playground the ice actually looks pretty decent for as warm as it's been how about a 7 AM start Saturday Feb 27th

Could this be true? I thought to myself…had someone run a scraper or Zamboni over the ice? Oh be still my heart; you’ve been tricked before…still, what if it was true?

I decided to refresh my email and check to see if there was any chatter from the group. My IN-Box lit up as another rat responded to the latest email by writing; “I'll take the chance on the ice. See you at 7am.This could be the last chance this season.”

I hit REPLY ALL by writing; “I will be there as well!” and then ran downstairs to pack my gear for the game that would take place on Saturday morning. Tommy O was a happy camper once again! 

When Saturday came, the ice looked as bad as when I had seen it the night before. I asked the rat what he was looking at the night before prior to sending his email which stated; “…the ice actually looks pretty decent…”

He admitted that he hadn’t really looked at the ice very closely. I reasoned that perhaps his bad vision was caused by the tears in his eyes as he too realized that the season was over.

Such a wave of emotions came over me that can only be compared to when a tearful Miss Colombia has to take off her crown and hand it over to Miss Philippines on live television at the 2016 Miss Universe Contest. 

“We are here; I say we play!” said that rat who had emailed all of us; “I'll take the chance on the ice. See you at 7am.This could be the last chance this season.”  

That was all of the inspiration and motivation that we needed. We were here, this was it, there were no more chances…we laced up ours skates and hit the ice as we pondered how we would navigate through the poor ice conditions.

Long story shorter, the longer we played, the better the ice surface became as our sharp skates shaved down the imperfections leaving decent outdoor ice conditions. Two hours later we posed for a photo to commemorate not only the 2015-2016 winter hockey season, but also this particular Saturday in February. 

Today, we fought the elements (warm temperatures) and we won. I had left the ice on my own terms and all was right with the world once again.

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17).