WHEN OUR HEROES DIE

Tonight, Hall of Famer and New York Mets legend, Tom Seaver, transitioned to the other side at the age of 75.

While never seeing him pitch live, I certainly appreciate his impact on this team and this town.

But for a more seasoned generation, Tom Terrific was their guy. He didn’t only bring legitimacy and a World Championship to a failing franchise, he was the face for millions who pledge loyalty to the orange and blue.

For example, ask any Mets fan what happened on June 15th, 1977, and if they were alive to see it, their face will drop and they will scratch their head. Some may even shed a tear.

You see, that summer day 43 years ago, Seaver was unexpectedly and inexplicably traded to the Cincinnati Reds. There are those who can still feel the pit in their stomach from the grief that was caused that day.

I think of them tonight and I cannot imagine what they are feeling at the loss of a hero. Their hero.

Seaver has been battling dementia in recent years due to lyme disease. In 2013, he threw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game in Citi Field, but since then his presence has been missed. When the Mets celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the first World Championship last summer, Seaver was unable to attend and his absence left a gaping hole, replaced now by a gaping wound.

As I reflected on this loss, I found myself contemplating why we care about someone who doesn’t even know our name. What is it about ourselves that leads us to mourn the loss of a stranger?

I am sure there are better answers, but I came to this simple conclusion: we all have our people.

For sports fans, you have your favorite player. For others, it might be a musician, an actor, a poet.

We are lifted by their excellence, lost in their craft, and inspired by their gifts.

They leave a mark on our soul.

When they leave us, a part of us and our past goes with them. We face our own mortality and we assess our own impact.

It is a tribute to the human spirit, that strangers can mourn over the passing of a distant figure. At a time of great division, there is a strange comfort found in this unity.

Of course, we must ask ourselves why we fail to mourn when other strangers pass. Why do we not shed a tear for those who die, especially for those who die because of an injustice and violence? Why are we not moved into action?

As we live through a time of social and systemic change, and as we approach close to 190,000 Covid-19 related deaths in the United States (6.13 million globally), perhaps our greatest tribute to Tom Terrific is by being a hero for others.

We will never dazzle on the mound at Shea, but we can use our gifts and talents to lift the spirits of others. We can help heal the division, take simple practices like wearing a mask to protect the vulnerable, and we can be extraordinary.

When our clock runs out, may others mourn our loss and the mark we left on them, both stranger and friend.

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