The Passing of a former Player — Lessons of Love

Jon Acton
4 min readMar 9, 2022

The Passing of a former Player — Lessons of Love

Today, I attended the funeral for a high school football player I was honored to coach almost 20 years ago. This was not the first funeral I have attended of a former player, and unfortunately it will probably not be the last. These are always gut punches from life that are impossible to prepare for. The loss of this young man provided such an inspiring lesson that I felt compelled to describe what I witnessed. Out of immense respect for this young man and his family I will not reveal his name or cause of death. Specific details are not required to understand the significance of loss when someone 40 years young leaves behind four young children as well as hundreds of grieving family and friends.

I hadn’t seen this young man often since he graduated from high school. In fact, I have struggled to remember when the last time we were able to talk. This lack of contact is something that will forever haunt me. Because of this gap in communication, there are several that have eulogized this young man with better knowledge and credibility. My memory of this young man seems frozen in time. An athletically gifted, confident and passionate 18-year-old football player. I believe for many educators and coaches we see our former students and or players in the age we taught or coached them. They are, as Rod Stewart sang, “Forever Young.” The reality is people grow old, have their own families and life happens whether fair or not. Seeing this young man today was a vivid reminder of how unfair life can be.

During the memorial service, a surreal experience took place that I cannot remember seeing or feeling ever before. In my lifetime, hundreds of times I have heard people say, don’t wait to tell others how you feel; or make sure to tell people you love them. I have uttered these same words only to fail to act. Either I was too embarrassed to say I love you out loud to people, or I was too self-absorbed and caught up with my own life. Today I watched an incredible number of people who were positively impacted by this young man. People who had close relationships with or were told they were loved by this young man at some point in their lives. Keep in mind, this was not a small memorial service. The funeral hall needed overflow seating to accommodate all those paying their respects. Easily two hundred people loved and knew they were loved by this young man. Who knows how many were unable to attend today and had the exact same…

Jon Acton

Husband, Father, Former School Superintendent, National Blue Ribbon School Principal, Teacher, Coach, Author in progress