I had my second blog for “Extra Points” done and ready to post this morning. But something occurred to change my priorities of what I wanted to say this week.
A great woman passed away last night.
Keisha Brown, 42 years young, died Thursday evening at her home after a long battle with cancer.
She fought to the end, but the terrible disease finally succeeded in taking her away from us.
For me, last night and now today have been a struggle to get through. Tears keep coming to my eyes as I attempt to put into words what this woman meant to me. I write this with the realization that whatever I say does not do true justice to who she was and what she represented. But, it is important to me that I try.
Terms too often are overused as hyperbole: ‘Warrior’, ‘Fighter’, ‘Battler’, ‘Champion’ and ‘Hero’. These are words that should be used sparingly and with just cause.
Any of these words can justifiably be used to describe Keisha Brown.
I first met Keisha in the early summer months of 2009. I was on the search committee to find and hire the new women’s basketball coach at Alma College. I was only nine months into my new role as sports information director at the school and this was my first committee assignment.
I took my role seriously and was diligent in my research and understanding of the candidates.
Keisha was interested after seven incredibly successful seasons as the boys coach at Sacred Heart Academy in Mt. Pleasant. I don’t recall exact numbers but I know she had won close to 80% of her games and had won many conference, district and regional titles during her tenure.
But, it was not the on-court accomplishments that drew me to Keisha. It was her absolute, total commitment and caring for her student athletes that made me come to the easy conclusion that she was the right choice for our position.
Our Athletic Director, John Leister, hired Keisha in July of 2009 and she became our new women’s coach.
For the past five years, I have had the privilege and honor to work side by side with Keisha in the Scots’ athletic department.
We knew in the interview process that Keisha had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and that she was a survivor. I watched as the disease kept coming back and watched some more as Keisha fought back at it every time. In her own words, she was a “lifer”, not just a survivor.
Her tenacity and resolve was something I may never see again as long as I am on this Earth.
Three different times, Keisha had fought the disease and pushed it away, but in January of 2013, it was discovered that the cancer was back and had metastasized into her bones.
She endured a grueling summer of treatments, but was back on the court with her team when fall practice started on October 15.
Through it all, Keisha stayed upbeat and her focus was her family and her team. A quote from her that appeared in the Morning Sun newspaper on October 25 of this past fall, clearly illustrated who Keisha was and what lived in her core.
“Being on the court coaching the girls is my time to get away from everything else that has been going on and I can just forget about everything else,” Brown said then. “My faith has allowed me to wake up every day and allow me to keep fighting. What are the odds that a person is going to be told four times in six years that the cancer is back? I couldn’t get through this without faith in God and the strength that I can endure anything because of that faith.”
That strength and commitment shaped her every day I saw her in the athletic department offices, with her lovely family and on the court.
When I confronted an illness of my own and let it become known in February of 2013, one of the very first people in my office was Keisha Brown. Never mind that she was dealing with the fight of her life – she wanted to make sure I was ok and to let me know she was there for me.
That is something I will never forget and my gratitude to her cannot be expressed in words.
The last time I saw and spoke to Keisha was a few weeks back when it was announced that she would no longer coach the team, but would work with John as a special assistant until the end of her contract.
We sat behind closed doors in my office and talked about things other than basketball. Again, she was worried about me and wanted to know how I was doing with my situation. She insisted I keep in touch and to call her if I was having a down moment.
That kind of selfless attitude best describes the kind of woman she was every day of her life. I am a better man for having known her. I can only hope to leave behind a legacy that is close to hers.
Rest in Peace Keisha Brown. We miss you already.
EXTRA POINTS THOUGHT OF THE DAY:
“There will be a time when all of the pieces will fit together and we will understand the reason for the pain. We must embrace that pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”