Damn you, cancer. Damn you all to hell.
This man was more than just a teacher and PE coach. He was a physical therapist, mentor, guide, role model, disciplinarian, motivator and protector to my daughter. He picked her up when she fell, and did his best to teach her how not to fall again. He protected her from harm, while at the same time assuring her that very few accomplishments were beyond her grasp if she tried hard enough to achieve them. In bad weather, he'd drive the school bus by my ex wife's house – not on his route – to pick KatyBeth up for school, because he didn't want her to walk in the rain. At church, he was a youth minister who helped teach many children to walk God's path, my daughter among them. He was a friend to my ex wife's family, and treated KatyBeth like a member of his own family.
He cheered every milestone and accomplishment she made just as loud and lustily as if she were his own kid.
In short, he did my job in the hours of the day when I wasn't around to do it, and he did it well.
I never once had to worry when I dropped KatyBeth off at school. I knew she was in good hands, and Robert Brown was one of the reasons.
Over the weekend, Katy's grandmother told me the news that Coach Brown had been hospitalized and wasn't expected to live. She'd called to tell him she was praying for him, and typical of Robert Brown, he was more worried about KatyBeth hearing the news than he was for himself. He told Katy's grandmother, "You tell Katy that I'm going to keep fighting, and she needs to keep fighting, too. And that if I don't get out of here, then we'll see each other again in Heaven."
He died a few days later.
Tomorrow, the school is going to wear their Team Brown tee shirts, and they'll gather on the softball field, and they'll release balloons in his memory. One of them will be from a little girl with cerebral palsy whose life he touched in ways too deep for words to convey.
Godspeed, Robert Brown. You've earned your rest.