This article is part of Times Opinion’s Holiday Giving Guide 2022. Read more on the guide in a note from Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury.
About 10 years ago, Lloyd Carr, the former University of Michigan football coach, stopped by my office to bring me a football helmet.
It was corn and blue, and he had written “Go Blue!” above. I had started as a sports reporter, but I did not understand how much of a legend this slab of man was. He seemed fun and charming, but I had to call my football-loving sister to learn that Carr was one of the most respected college football coaches in the winningest program in college football history. The tough Tennessee native had joined the Michigan Wolverines in 1980 and led them from 1995 to 2007. Many of the office guys were in awe, crowding onto the couch to talk to him.
By late afternoon, I was so impressed with the future College Football Hall of Famer, now 77, that we agreed to keep in touch. We exchanged e-mails, until one day his e-mails suddenly stopped. “Hi,” I wrote to him. “What’s up? I miss talking to you.” This is how I discovered that this man, so full of energy and life, had entered into a miasma of grief.
Her grandson Chad, an angelic-looking blond, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor on September 23, 2014, three days before his fourth birthday. Fourteen months later, he was dead, victim of a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
Carr, her son Jason, and daughter-in-law Tammi established the ChadTough Foundation; so far, it has funded over $20 million in research to combat DIPG. Cancer is almost always fatal, and 150 to 300 children are affected each year in the United States alone.
Carr has made his old football field mottos his mantra in the fight against cancer: “You can’t do everything, but you can do something” and “Don’t blame anyone, don’t expect anything, do something”. .
“All my life, ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated losing,” Carr said when I called him Thursday. “As a player and as a coach, every time we lost it was a heartbreaking loss for me, in my eyes. I thought I knew what it was to break your heart, but it wasn’t. Not so. Chad’s experience taught me. I know now.”
After Chad’s death, Tammi curled up, thinking about everything Chad loved: orange sunsets, garage sales and her older brothers. But then her son Tommy, who was 7 at the time, came into her room and shouted, “Get up and cook breakfast!” It was a reminder that she owed her two other children to keep fighting. Tommy is now 15 and his brother CJ is a high schooler who will be heading to Notre Dame to play quarterback.
As they grew, so did the foundation; Last year, ChadTough partnered with the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation, becoming the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation. Michael had also died of DIPG in 2015 and was only a year older than Chad.
“We just got Chad’s Angels Verse and it’s like seven years have passed in an instant, but it’s also forever,” Tammi Carr told me. “Grief is a strange thing.”
I also met Ciaran Staunton, like Lloyd Carr, before his life was destroyed. He owned two Irish bars, one in Midtown Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. I also knew his wife, Orlaith; his daughter, Kathleen; and his son, Rory, a 12-year-old 5-foot-9, 169-pound boy.
“He fell at school,” Staunton said, recalling a Tuesday in March 2012. “Cut off his arm. They didn’t send him to the nurse. He was up that night , vomiting. Their pediatrician and emergency room doctors at a hospital said it was nothing serious. But bacteria had entered his bloodstream from the cut.
“It was starting to turn blue on Friday night. Sunday evening, our beautiful boy passed away. He was almost blue from head to toe. The Tuesday night before he died, I bought him a pizza and asked him what kind he wanted. The following Tuesday I was at a funeral home and they asked me what casket I wanted.
Like the Carrs, the Stauntons created a foundation — called End Sepsis, the Legacy of Rory Staunton — to raise sepsis awareness and improve prevention measures.
“We had never heard of the word ‘sepsis’ before Rory died. We didn’t hear it at the hospital,” Staunton said. “We had a hearing in the US Senate on this. We discovered that it killed a quarter of a million Americans every year. Since Rory’s death, nearly three million Americans have died of sepsis.
Thanks to the work of the foundation and extensive coverage of their case by the late Times columnist Jim Dwyer, New York passed regulations that dictate how doctors must treat the preventable disease. The rules have been credited with helping save thousands of lives.
“It totally destroyed my life, my wife’s life, my daughter’s life,” Staunton said. “Rory would now be 23. Trauma is the world we live in. It’s the world we are surrounded by until, thankfully, we die.”
This article is part of Times Opinion’s Holiday Giving Guide 2022. The author has no direct connection with the organizations mentioned. If you are interested in an organization listed in Times Opinion’s 2022 giving guide, please go directly to the organization’s website. Neither the authors nor the Times will be able to answer questions about the groups or facilitate donations.
The Times undertakes to publish a variety of letters For the editor. We would like to know what you think of this article or one of our articles. Here is some tips. And here is our email: email@example.com.
Follow the Opinion section of the New York Times on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and instagram.