You Gotta Believe
That was the name of famous Philadelphia Phillie Tug McGraw’s “feel good” segments on TV’s Action News, decades ago. McGraw was known for saying that phrase, and for his incredibly optimistic outlook on life. Steve and I were lucky enough to be interviewed by Tug early in our children’s theatre career. I don’t think we still have the video, but at least there’s a photograph. These mementos have greater personal value after the person in them has passed away (as Tug did, much too soon). I am no sports fan, but I vividly recall that long ago day (especially how thrilled Steve was to meet him).
Recently, a dear friend posted a link to a remarkable article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It told the story of a video clip from Kobe Bryant’s first freshman high school basketball game-- Lower Merion playing Upper Dublin (where we live and where our kids went to school). A young Upper Dublin player scored a three pointer in that game. His name was Bobby McIlvaine, and he was a scholar athlete who would go on to excel at Princeton and beyond. Bobby was at a meeting in the Twin Towers on 9/11, and was killed, just before his 27th birthday.
After Kobe died last fall, through a serendipitous series of events, the short video clip made its way back to the McIlvaine family in Oreland. They were able to see their son and brother on film, after all these years. The piece is beautifully written, by an Inquirer writer who is also an Upper Dublin grad and friend of Bobby’s, and as I read it I immediately thought of my own miracle story, which I’ve shared here before. 35 years after my sister Maureen’s death, I was contacted out of the blue by someone who dated her back in the 1970’s. Besides being a terrific person, Michael is blessed with an phenomenal memory. When we reunited, he told stories about Mo that I’d never known. I “saw”my sister again through his words, and it was an amazing gift.
“You gotta believe”? Well, many people read or hear these stories and are unconvinced that they are any more than total randomness. As for me, I gotta believe, because I feel certain that this is not our only reality. I am convinced here is a spiritual realm just beyond us, and that there are breaks in the veil between the heavenly and the earthly sometimes. If we’re lucky, we find ourselves experiencing one of those breaks, which in Celtic spirituality are called “the thin places.” And when we do, our perceptions change. We come to realize how much we never dreamed existed. We get a glimpse of a fuller life, an eternal life, that is ours now, and will be ours forever.
So this morning, I see a suburban high school gym, Kobe vs Bobby. I see my beloved sister. I see ebullient, charming Tug.
They’re still around. And I’m thanking God for the thin places