During that time I met many amazing kids. It was a very special place to me. Finding out that JB had gotten into Mayo Clinic for medical school in 2003 was the most exciting news of our young life. But it also meant I had to grieve saying good bye to this community that had been my home and my first "real job." I had a lot to learn about life in the south and in a Kentucky small town. Man were things different than I had grown up understanding them in an urban sprawl like Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But this community and their people embraced me and loved me and welcomed me. They left me with many wonderful memories. And I hope I did the same for them.
I was only a few years older than most of my students and athletes. I have many stories of wonderful families, but the Mayes family definitely nestled firmly in my heart. This is a picture of Ashley Mayes as I remember her in high school. She played basketball and volleyball for me.
The man on the right was in my senior English class. His name was Cody Baker. He was always present, always polite, always kind. You could tell he had been raised right. He was a gentleman and a true "Yes Ma'am" young man.
And it quickly became apparent that he really liked Ashley!
While I may not get all of the memories correct, here's what I remember:
They were married not long after I left Kentucky, and Cody joined the Navy. I remember him talking often his plans to join the military. But about 12 years ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to medically leave the military.
He ans Ashley settled in Missouuri and had three children together, a son and then twins.
Cody lived, mostly unimpeded by his tumor for well over a decade before a routine MRI showed that it was not lying dormant anymore. They began to fight the tumor.
Cody went home to be with the Lord yesterday. They were on a beach vacation together as a family when he became gravely ill and was flown home. They waited for Ashley to arrive at the hospital and then let him go. Her sister Amber called to tell me yesterday.
Through it all, Ashley's faith was INSPIRING. She loves the Lord. She loves her husband. She loves her family. Her father, Terry, was a good friend of mine, and believe it or not, is fighting for his life in the hospital right now too.
I think the reason I find myself awake, in the middle of the night, is because Cody and Ashley were high school sweethearts. Just like John and me. And so my heart feels this loss in my core. I can't imagine my life without John. And I know Ashley feels the same way right now. There are tears streaming down my face as I write this because I feel this loss. It isn't fair. It feels so wrong. I want to fix it.
This is a strong, resilient, beautiful wife and mother who has not lead a life free of pain. And yet despite the challenges she faced throughout her life, she has continued to love and serve Jesus Christ. She thrived in her home with her father Terry and her sister, Amber, (who was also an incredibly special part of my coaching days.) Terry was a single father who loved his girls and raised them to love the Lord.
I do what I do when I am sad.
I had to get up, even though it is 3am to write since my fingers were typing in my brain as I rested beside my husband in my bed. I know God has a plan. I know He is a good God and He tells us that "All things work together for the good of those that love Him." I have no doubt that will be true in Ashley's life.
But my heart is grieved for her loss. For the loss her children now face. Will you pray for them? Ashley is 33 years old. Cody was 34. Their three children are Olin (12) and twins Isabella and Maverick who are just 8 years old.
I love you Ashley. I love you Amber and Terry. I am grieving and praying for your family during this incredible time of loss and love and rejoicing and sorrow. I continue to pray for Terry as he fights his own battle. A girl should not have to lose her husband and her dad and so I will pray fiercely that Terry comes home whole and as sports-crazy as ever.
Ashley I love you. You have told me that I was a positive influence in your life. You have been just the same in mine.