Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Just Don't Understand

This little blog post will go buried in the searches on,, and, but I'm feeling a need to let my own heart grieve through my keyboard.

A year ago I posted here and here about a small town just a few miles from us that suffered devastating loss of life and possessions from an F-5 tornado. There were so many hurting people, and the Cedar Valley rallied around them in support.

In the midst of the rebuilding, the local football coach showed his exquisite leadership as he led his team in the reconstruction, vowing to have the football field ready for the first home game, despite the fact his own home and the school had been leveled. Football has been the cornerstone of
this small Iowa town, and what better way to acknowledge recovery than to have their champion team back on the field, fondly known as the "Sacred Acre," with the entire town in the stands on that September Friday night celebrating their survival of a natural disaster.

Today, Coach Ed Thomas was shot and killed by one of his former players.

This man was a legendary football coach, the 2005 NFL High School Coach of the Year, he shepherded 4 players who currently play the NFL, and was above all, a man of God. A deacon in his church and a mentor to thousands over his 34 years of coaching and teaching in Parkersburg, his goal was to make sure his studen
ts and athletes were the best young men and women they could be.

It was well known that his priorities were
1. Faith
2. Family
3. Football

He never put those in any other order.

I knew Coach Thomas as "the formidable opposition" when my boys played football. When I took the leap to be a high school tennis coach, he was an encouraging and inspiring teacher in my coaching certification class. Coaching and mentoring young people was his passion. But he was an inspiration to this non-traditional student as well.

Tonight my heart aches in so many directions. Like my daughter told me tonight, God knew this was the plan long before it happened. I know I will find more comfort in those words as time passes.

The father of the young man who shot Coach T serves as a deacon in the same church as Coach and is a friend of the family. He played on Coach's first football team in Parkersburg in 1975. The accused's younger brother is a senior on the A-P
football team this fall. Coach and the shooter's father often prayed together for the life of turmoil this young man was leading. The collateral damage of this troubled young man's actions is unmeasurable - the ripples go far beyond this small Iowa town of 3,000 and extend across our nation because of the number of lives he has touched over the years.

In a news conference today, Coach Thomas' son Aaron so eloquently asked for prayer for his family, as well as a request to keep the shooter's family in our prayers. And Ron Burgundy put his whole heart into this tribute to Coach Thomas.

I just don't understand. But I have faith that someday I will. Tonight
I will wrestle with either Jerry Bridges or Harold Kushner as I try to put some perspective on this.

But for now, I just don't understand. And I think God's OK with that, because it literally brings me to my knees - again.


Elaine at Matters of the Heart) said...

Oh my, this was just heart wrenching. I am so sorry for this loss. I will be lifting you and both family in prayer. Sometimes it is so hard to understand the ultimate plan, praying for all involved to feel some peace tonight.

Beth in NC said...

Well written Candy. We saw this on the news and are SO SORRY. This is horrible. God bless these families and all who loved this man.

Annie K said...

When bad things happen to people who truly make a difference it's never easy to understand. I honestly find myself asking God why he didn't let some scum of the earth be wiped out, instead of allowing someone like Coach Thomas to die.

I'm sure over his 35 years of coaching/teaching he touched countless lives and we will be hearing just how big of an impact he made on others. I will be keeping the family and community in my prayers.

Wendy said...

My heart breaks for those families. It's just so sad! It would be nice to know God's plan in all of this, but I know He can bring good from it. I just wish that things like this didn't happen.

vanilla said...

We can but say with Paul, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him--"

We commit our grief for both families to Christ and will pray for the day of understanding even as we pray for these families, their friends and the greater community.

Helen said...

How very sad.

Alix said...

Oh my gosh, Candy. What a tragedy! I am so so very sorry for the loss of this wonderful Godly man. I am shouldering up to you with the same lack of understanding. First of all, how does a person kill another person? I avoid stepping on ants if I can. What kind of mentality must you achieve to willingly and intentionally do harm to another human being - especially one of such high integrity and moral character. It is mind numbing. What a terrible loss - but he indeed is in a better place. I will pray for his family.

katdish said...

When something so tragic happens, I find myself just trying to grasp and understand why. Why do these horrible things happen? I must hold on to the knowledge that God is in control of all things, understood and otherwise.

sherri said...

I thought I left a comment here earlier, but guess it didn't come through.

I heard about this fabulous man on the news. What an inspirational life and how blessed you are for having crossed paths with him.

Will be praying for all those who knew and loved him.

Billy Coffey said...

Such a sad story. One of life's greatest and most enduring struggles is that it so often seems as if someone has caught God snoozing. We know that's not the case. KNOW it. But feeling it is different when there's nothing to feel but pain. said...

I read your post yesterday and was left in shock and speechless. My husband asked what I had reacted to and I shared the story. Later I saw it on the news.

Devastation. My heart goes out to his family and the communities that he has influenced.

Thank God that we have reason to hope and have faith. How would you and I cope with this world without HIM?

Beth E. said...

I'm so very sorry for the loss of Coach T. My heart goes out to his family, church family, friends, students, and football players.

Praying for peace and comfort for everyone involved...

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