We all know that none of us is promised a tomorrow. But sometimes we get so caught up in living life that we fail to appreciate what a gift it really is. We take our days for granted until something calls our attention to it. The Bobcat family got one of those wake-up calls on Monday.
The news reached me in a text message. Coach Lake had been in a motorcycle accident early that morning, and he had died. Just like that. One minute everything was fine, and the next, I'm feeling tears burning my eyes as I stare at the words. It's hard to know what to think much less find words for such a tragic loss.
Billy Lake has been a volunteer assistant coach at Woodland for three years. Anyone associated with small schools knows how vital volunteers are to their athletic programs. Lake was no exception. Woodland's coaches work long hours on and off the field. They sacrifice much of their time to preparation, practice, field maintainence. Few truly understand how much they do. Not one of them is compensated adequately for his work, but some, like Lake, give their time and talents asking nothing in return.
Coach Bailey spoke of Coach Lake saying that he was an integral part of "what we do". Lake wasn't always the most vocal of the staff during film or planning, but when he did contribute, he was always right on. The position players he coached got to know him well and respected him greatly. He loved the team and the game. And we was happy to be a part of it.
The thing that stands out in my mind is his presence on the sideline during games. The atmosphere is tense. And the coaches are working. There's so much to do, so much at stake. And you can see it on the coaches' faces. Not that Lake was any less intense, but one thing made him stand apart from the others. It was the smile he wore, stretching from ear to ear. Because no matter what was on the line or how outmatched we were, Coach Lake never lost sight of what a blessing it was to be there. He enjoyed those Friday nights. That staff and those players, they were like family to him. Not like family...they were family. And that family is left grieving the loss of one of their own.
All baseball season, Coach Bailey talked with the guys about making the most of life's opportunities, of enjoying every minute on that field. Because you just never know which time will be your last time out there. Losing Lake reminds us of just how true that is.
Time waits for no man and the Bobcats will move forward. Summer workouts will start soon and the 2012 season will be here before we know it. It will be tough for the players and coaches. They will lean on each other. They will do what families do and help each other through this difficult time. Coach Lake will be greatly missed. No doubt his absence will be felt by everyone as the team takes the field this fall. And with heavy hearts, those guys will play their hearts out, because that's what they do.
Honor Coach Billy Lake by spending your time doing what you love with the people you love. Live every day like it's your last. Never take tomorrow for granted. And smile.