My hero is gone

As a young boy growing up in a small town in Northwest Louisiana, I was an avid sports fan.

I could tell you the starting lineup of most Major League Baseball teams. I could tell you the starting backfield for most pro football teams. I knew the most sacred number in sports was 714.

I admired a golfer named Arnold Palmer. I admired a football player named Archie Manning. I admired a basketball player named Pete Maravich. I admired a tennis player named Arthur Ashe. I admired a baseball player named Mickey Mantle.

I say ``admired'' because I didn't view athletes as heroes. I didn't view them as role models. I didn't put them on the he-can-do-no-wrong pedestal.

No, that was reserved for a very special woman that I knew, a woman who faced heart break but never lost heart, a woman who fought enormous odds but kept beating the spread.

This woman lost her husband to a car accident in 1957. She had seven children at the time and was pregnant with another. She raised them on a school teacher's salary. She's raised them on faith and hope. She taught them perseverance by example.

She didn't remarry because she didn't have time to date. She was too busy raising her kids.

She was always able to provide for her family.

She was always there for her children.

She was always upbeat about life.

I couldn't figure it out. She had every reason to complain about the cruel hand she'd been dealt. But she didn't. She not only lost her husband 40 years ago, she lost her first born 16 years earlier. Yet, she dedicated her life to her children, to other children, and to her faith.

She was soft spoken but a rock of determination.

When one of her sons wanted to play football, she was the only woman at a mandatory parent's meeting.

When one of her sons played baseball, she was in the stands.

When one of her sons played basketball, she rarely missed a game.

Somehow, she made sure her youngest son didn't miss out on sporting events. He went to LSU football and basketball games, saw the Harlem Globetrotters, watched the Dallas Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl Stadium and attended Houston Astros games.

I'm not sure how she found the funds to pay for all this, but she did.

This woman taught me about faith. She taught me about sportsmanship. She taught me about fairness. She taught me not to prejudge people. She taught me about responsibility. She taught me about accountability. She taught me the importance of an education.

She was a mother, a father, a friend, a teacher, a counselor, a confidant.

She had a passion for life that defied her own life. She loved to travel, loved to visit with friends and family, loved to cook and loved to love.

If you didn't know her, you missed out. She was the kindest, most thoughtful, most generous person you'd ever meet.

She was a woman struck by many tragedies who struck back by serving her church, serving her kids, serving other kids, serving hot meals on wheels, serving her fellow man by visiting the ill in hospitals and nursing homes.

The last 15 years of this woman's life didn't seem fair.

She was stricken by a series of three strokes in 1992 and 1993. She was robbed of her ability to communicate. She couldn't see or talk or hear.

If she had not been in such terrific physical shape, she wouldn't have survived the third stroke. Instead, she lived another 14 years.

I regret I didn't get a chance to spend quality time with her over these past 15 years.

How can you raise eight kids on a school teacher's salary and not indulge in self pity? How can you lose your husband and son at such a young age and not be bitter? How can so many cards be taken from your deck and you not cry foul? How can you face so many misfortunes in your life and not lose your faith? How? How?

Dorothy L. Hyams was the most remarkable person I've ever known.

I can't express how much I loved her.

My mother died Friday morning.

The woman who shaped my life is gone. The one and only person I ever placed on a pedestal is gone. My hero is gone.

May she rest in peace.

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