Monday, February 28, 2011

Charlie's Victory [Book Review]

Over the Christmas holiday my mom let me borrow Charlie's Victory to read. I explained to her that I rarely read actual paper books (preferring audiobooks), but would give this one a try. So, I made it about 20 pages thought it sounded interesting and wanted to read more. Then, like what normally happens I kept forgetting to pick it up and read it. I did manage to listen to one audiobook and make some significant progress on another audiobook... Anyways, this last weekend on the coast provided the perfect setting to really get into the book. While Jessi puzzled, I read.

In short, the book was amazing. I pretty much cried through the first half of the book and smiled/rejoiced the second half of the book. I probably re-read a quarter of it out loud because Jessi kept wanting to know what was affecting me so emotionally. I thought I was going to read a story about disease, but it turned out to be a story about love, hope and faith.

Charlie's Victory is an autobiography written by Charlie and Lucy Wedemeyer (husband & wife) with Gregg Lewis. Charlie was an amazing athlete in Hawaii - voted athlete of the decade! He also had an outstanding college football career with Michigan State. Then, he landed a job as a football coach of Los Gatos High School (my alma mater). He and Lucy, his high school sweet heart, lived in California with two kids. They were very much in love and living the American Dream.

Right around that time Charlie was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease, also affect is Stephen Hawking). He was given about a year to live as his body slowly, but surely, stopped functioning. Charlie and Lucy share their reaction and describe what it's like deal with someone slowly losing control of his body. Surprisingly, they kept a humorous attitude the entire time. It's probably these situations that brought me to tears the most. Typically, either Charlie or Lucy would be at their wits end because something horrible/embarrassing happened. Then someone else would step in, do something funny and relieve the situation. Here's an example Lucy shares:

   "Since Charlie now required so many of my daytime hours, I usually went in to do my office work late in the evenings when Carri and Kale could stay home with their dad. One night at the office I wearily trudged to the office Xerox machine to copy a number of important legal documents from several of my current real estate files; then I was going home to bed. But when I returned and went to set the tall stack of folders on a clear corner of my desk, the top files began to slide. Instinctively I grabbed at them, only to miss and send the entire pile sailing off the desk and across the floor.
   I took a long look at the mess and closed my eyes. I didn't know whether to scream in frustration or simply sag to the floor amidst the jumble of papers and cry myself to sleep.
   At that moment, my friend Barbara, who was also working late and had been behind me at the copy machine walked into the office to check out the commotion. She saw all those real estate documents strewn on the floor. She also must have seen the exhaustion and defeat on my face. Because she instinctively made the most insane, inspired show of empathy and support: she flung her own stack of files high in the air and then laughed along with me as we watched her blizzard of paper flutter to the floor on top of mine. Friends."

I was in constant awe of how, even though they got hit over and over and over again with trials, their can-do attitude persisted. I think fundamentally, they asked different types of questions than "normal" people. When Charlie wanted to keep coaching despite not being able to stand up any more they would ask, "How can I coach?" Instead of "Can I coach?" This assumption: "I'm going to coach" made a world of a difference.

Charlie ended up living many, many more years: Even after they wrote this book, Charlie (with Lucy's help) continued as an assistant coach even when I played. Lucy and his love proved to be an inspiration to the world. Near the end of their story, they talk more and more about their faith and how God sustains them. It's amazing! I HIGHLY recommend this book. It's hard to fully capture the amazing-ness of their story, so I'm going to let YouTube help me out. Unfortunately, the creator of the videos doesn't want them embedded so you'll have to visit them yourself. Here are the two video links which should open in a new tab for you:

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