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When I moved to this town in 1996, one of the first things I did was to start playing volleyball again. It had been years since I’d been on a court and it felt great to be there. We have an awesome Parks and Rec department in my town, plus our local YMCA also has terrific volleyball leagues. I’ve played in both leagues throughout the past however many years that is.

During the course of time, we have played with and against the same core group of people. We’ve subbed for other teams. We’ve had people from other teams sub for us. We’ve played in tournaments together. We’ve won a lot. We’ve lost a lot. We’ve made great friendships. We’ve made amazing rivalries! We have this group of interchangeable parts when it comes to putting together teams for whatever we may need a team for. It has been this consistent thing in my life. No matter what else goes on, there is always volleyball.

A few years ago (Jackie was a senior in high school…so a LOT of a few years ago) we were playing in our weekly game and on the court next to us one of our friends went up to block a ball and came down in a heap. Dead. Gone in an instant. We watched him go from being very much alive and active to being….nothing. CPR was begun immediately. EMS crew was there within minutes. It didn’t matter. Our friend was gone. He was Mark’s age. It hit us both very hard. We had daughters the same age, both getting ready to graduate high school. We passed him on our evening walks. He was very active. Lived a very healthy lifestyle. Gone in an instant.

This morning I received a phone call from Mark. We had our weekly co-ed game last night. Hung around and visited for a few minutes afterwards like we normally do. Said our goodbyes like we normally do. Left to head home and eat, just like we normally do. Shortly after we left, one of our friends went to serve a ball and dropped into a heap. Dead. Just like Darrel all those years ago. Here one moment. Gone the next. One of our interchangeable parts – gone forever. Leaving our volleyball family grieving. Sad for his wife and children. Bracing for next week’s game when we meet up with his team and knowing that his absence will be felt.

Life is fragile. Hug your loved ones tightly.

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