OPINION: Sideline Slants

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JOE KLEINSAUSSER
A wife lost a loving husband.

A son and daughter lost a dad.

School kids lost a respected teacher.

Kansas lost one of its top high school football and basketball officials.

I lost a friend.

Jerry May was easy to like. Bill Faflick, athletic director for the Wichita school district, said, ?Everyone wanted Jerry to officiate their games. He was one of the most respected officials around.?

Indeed he was. He was a fixture as an official in state championship football and basketball games. He was not only a good official, but he was well liked. He was confident, but not cocky or arrogant.

He communicated well with coaches, players and other officials. It?s little wonder that coaches regularly wanted him to work their post-season games.

Jerry and I talked frequently during the basketball season. We shared officiating stories, discussed the challenges of the job and laughed a lot.

The laughing stopped when Jerry collapsed on a basketball court at Goddard High School Tuesday night, Jan. 11.

I had talked to Jerry earlier that day. It wasn?t unusual for us to visit at the start of a day. We usually called each other at least once a week during the basketball season.

Over the years, I had the privilege of working a lot of basketball games with him. He was a great encouragement to me. I never worried about Jerry doing his job or backing me up as I did mine. He was simply fun to be around.

On the last day of his life, we talked about working some games together again next season. As a result of my broken leg, it appeared that we wouldn?t have the chance to work together this season. He sounded happy and in good spirits. He seemed just fine.

Perhaps that?s why the news came as such a shock. Late that Tuesday evening I learned that Jerry collapsed on the basketball court shortly before the start of the boys? basketball game between Andover and Goddard.

After officiating the girls? varsity game, Jerry appeared to be fine.

However, between games, he complained of a headache and it seemed to be getting worse. Then shortly before tip off, he collapsed and fell hard on the court.

The game was postponed. Spectators were stunned. His officiating partners were in shock. The game really didn?t matter anymore.

It?s not easy to deal with the loss of a friend, especially when you don?t have the chance to say goodbye and thank-you. It?s particularly difficult when that friend dies prematurely, at age 46.

As I lay in bed that night, a tear rolled down my cheek. Going to sleep was going to be difficult.

I managed to drift off, but during the night I woke up when I heard my little boy, Ryan, crying in the next room. I walked in and asked him if he was having a bad dream. He nodded. I said, ?Me too.?

I?m not very good at dealing with the loss of a good friend. Time, they say, helps heal our wounds. I?m counting on that to be true.

Already, many games have been played since Jerry died. The games will continue, as they should. Life goes on.

I have a feeling though, that for those of us who knew Jerry well, officiating won?t ever be the same.

I?m counting my blessings though, because I?m a better person for having known Jerry. He was a good friend.

In the Bible, Solomon said it well: ?There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to cry; a time to laugh; a time to grieve.?

I believe those words. I also know it still hurts.

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