by | Dec 29, 1993 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me, He held his darkened carriage low,

And waited patiently.

A chill across these pages blew

A blanket ripping free,

As we journeyed to the fallen souls

Of 1993.

AT first we passed the tennis courts

Of Arthur Ashe’s grace,

And grief began anew again,

Just watching Arthur’s face.

The image of him at the net

Or sharing his life’s story

Could fate so cruel as tainted blood

Steal all his hard-earned glory?

BEFORE I asked, Death’s wooden carriage

Rolled upon a lake

The bodies of two baseball pitchers

Caused my hands to shake.

A picnic day, a pleasure boat

Now turned to widows’ sighs

“But this is sports” I asked the ghost

“How is it death applies?”

HE answered not, but pulled the reins

His horses brayed in chorus,

And suddenly, a Final Four scene

Filled the air before us.

Jim Valvano ran the floor

In search of players’ hugs,

But later, choked back cancer

In toasting those he loved.

HE looked so young, I wanted to

Scream out in haughty anguish

After all, what place is sports

For all this death to languish?

But as I opened lips to speak

The specter waved a finger

Valvano gone, and now inside

An empty gym we lingered.

A smiling man, with quiet ways,

And long arms made for flying

Collapsed, playing the game he loved

Was Reggie Lewis dying?

And even as he came our way

A man just one year older,

Who wore the jersey “Petrovic”

Joined in, a fallen soldier.

I wanted then to shut my eyes,

And ask for my release

But Death drove on with silent wheels

Into the tragic crease

And suddenly the air was filled with

Planes and crashes burning

And families named Allison and

Kulwicki were left yearning.

ON this went, our woeful ride

Through tears and sighs and speeches

Heather Farr, a withered star,

Chris Street — how far this reaches.

In Zambia, the mounds of dirt,

Are graves for soccer players

In Houston, off a highway pass

For Jeff Alm, they say prayers.

SOON the carriage struggled with

The weight Death brought to bear

And surely we were finished with

His horror and despair.

“What brings you here?”

I asked again, “Why must we pay your wages?

“Have you no more noble task

“Than haunting our sports pages?”

HE made no sound, but steered the carriage

Onward without bother

Until he reached the flowered grave

Of Michael Jordan’s father

The photo of the face they shared

Was withered now in two,

The famous son was crying,

Death seemed to nod, “Him, too.”

BEHIND that scene, I heard the noise

A click and then a fire,

Guns and bullets, sirens, broken

Glass and drunken tires.

I shut my ears and wished for sports

To hush these baying hounds

A football cheer, a golfer’s swing,

A baseball organ’s sounds . . .

“ENOUGH!” I screamed unto my guide

“This never was my choosing

Wasn’t I to write about the

Winning and the losing?

Send me back to innocence,

Of baseball and March Madness

Return to us the sports page

Minus all this sadness!”

BECAUSE I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me

He pointed once at glory

And once at agony

He crossed the fingers, then he spoke

“One world, one fate, one plea”

And we have learned that all too well

In 1993


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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