Last night I watched the Louisville Cardinals defeat Michigan, 82-76, in Atlanta to win the university's third national championship in men's basketball. There were many great storylines for both teams going into, through, and out of that game. The Cardinals' Kevin Ware cheered his teammates on from the sideline, a casualty of his horrific broken leg from the previous weekend. As a former resident of Louisville, I was thrilled to see the Cardinals win another title and listen to Luther Vandross' voice as the song "One Shining Moment" was played to end the telecast.
And then I woke up this morning, went running, showered, dressed, ate breakfast, and cruised the Internet and landed on a story that is a true shining moment in the most unlikely March Madness situation.
Long story short (and you should read the article linked above, but I'd adjure you to have a box of Kleenex in close proximity): Kirsten Moore is the women's basketball coach at Westmont College, a Christian college located in Santa Barbara, California. She married her husband Alex, a kinesiology professor at Westmont, in the spring of 2008. Then in May of 2012, Alex went in to Cedar-Sinai Hospital for colon surgery, as he struggled with Crohn's disease. The operation was a success and he told Kirsten to go to a friend's house and get some rest. She did.
Twelve hours after that surgery, a pulmonary embolism struck Alex Moore in the middle of the night, snuffing the life from this 31-year old husband.
Kirsten was awakened from her sleep by the hospital's phone call and screamed and wept her eyes out.
Did I mention? She was eight months pregnant.
Obviously the pain Kirsten carried was immeasurable. One can hardly fathom going through childbirth, delivering a baby girl who would never know her daddy. Kirsten Moore nonetheless went back to work, preparing for the next season. But she couldn't do it alone.
One woman, Deanna Odell, said, "The tragedy occurred and we're all like 'Okay, how are we going to help her?' It's just how our community works."
The care of Alexis, Kirsten's baby girl, was a coordinated network of friends utilizing a series of tender handoffs from Kirsten's daily office duties, her late-afternoon practices, and during games. Sometimes Alexis hung out with the team during practices. She managed to interrupt a film session as players and Kirsten both gawked in amazement that she was finally crawling. There were times that were a bit dicey, such as when Alexis needed nursing on a bus trip to an away game. Because the men's and women's teams traveled together, Kirsten ordered the men to turn their heads.
One assistant coach remarked that Kirsten "could have ran, we all could have ran...Instead, we gave these young women a chance to see, firsthand, how to handle real adversity."
The adventure through pain and perseverance took the Westmont women's team all the way through the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics...the NCAA of smaller colleges) Women's National Championship Tournament. Win followed win, and on March 19th--just last month!--the team huddled at courtside before the national championship game against Lee University.
Kirsten Moore thanked the coaches and players for reviving her soul, for being there at her husband's funeral, for bearing burdens and bringing joy and pursuing patience with her.
In short, she said, "Thank you for loving me."
And then they went out and beat Lee, 71-65, for the national title and a picture-perfect moment.
Two days after Alex's death, Kirsten had gone through his office and noticed some Post-it notes on the wall. One gave Scriptural moxie: "Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord, my God, is with you."
And a community circled around this young widow, this tender mother, this grieving coach, and locked arms and made it so.
That is the "one shining moment" I'll remember from this spring.