On a warm July night in New Orleans I sat on my bed and tried to decide what I wanted my message to be for my students on our last day of school. You see I had just spent six weeks teaching them about five paragraph essays, hook sentences, slave rebellions, and the Civil Rights Movement, but that’s not what I wanted them to remember. Rather I wanted to leave them knowing how grateful I was to have spent my summer with them. All those times I yelled at them and got my red pen out was all out of love, not hate. I wanted them to know that I treasured each and every one of them. So the next morning after breakfast I walked into the classroom and wrote a few words on the board that by this point I had memorized. “Everyday I am reminded that our life’s journey is really about the people who touch us.”
Stuart Scott said these words just a year before I wrote them on that white board. Although I had grown up going to sleep to the sound of Stu’s voice and waking up to it the next morning thanks to Sportscenter re-runs, I never dreamed that he would have the impact on me that he had a decade later.
When I was much younger I used to get my mom’s video camera and set it up in front of the TV screen for all of the big games. I’d harass my brother into being my color commentary man, and for the next four quarters I would do my best job running the imaginary show. Yeah, Stu wasn’t a play-by-play guy, but he could entertain with the best of them. So I stole his catch phrases, using “cool as the other side of the pillow” or “you ain’t got to go home, but you’ve got to get the heck out of here” every chance I could get. Stu was the gold standard for sports broadcasting.
The memories of Stu opening a broadcast in style or dropping a new catch phrase are still in the back of my mind, but the words he said and the life he lived have become etched into my soul. In those final days he urged us to stop worrying about what’s for dinner, the newest pair of shoes, or how cold it is outside. Stu might have been dying physically, but he was begging us to wake up mentally. He told us to live, to love, to fight like hell, and at the very core: to wake up. To hug your grandma, to call that friend, to do the chores, and to truly live. This is what my students, myself, and everyone needs to be reminded of. We get caught up so easily that we take life for granted, and Stu reminds us that we should never go a day, an hour, or a minute, without living life to the fullest. He told those who were fighting cancer or fighting other issues that they wouldn’t be defined by their disease, instead they would be defined by the way they fought. You’ll hear plenty of messages in your life, few will be more powerful than that. Stu was the gold standard for how to live.
It’s been a year now since Stu left us. I remember lying in the floor in my den watching the tribute videos and crying. It’s our reaction as humans, to cry. We all were hurting so badly for him and his family. I knew that my dad would wake me up for school the next morning, but Stu’s voice wouldn’t be there. We knew we felt a hole.
But Stu didn’t want us to live this way, and we won’t. Today, tomorrow, and forever, we will love, live, and fight like hell for the people who touch us.