Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Banquet

It’s important to me to fill you in on the varsity football banquet ASAP.  So many of you were kind to ask about it in your replies to the “Handshake” blog yesterday.  You’re so sweet!  Your concern is so heartwarming.  I didn’t get home until almost midnight and was way too tired to talk about the evening with the care it deserves.  What a special night! :-)
I did have a case of nerves before heading out the door Thursday night… I knew it was going to be wonderful but I was afraid for it to end so I didn’t want it to begin.  Kind of like anticipating Christmas or my Birthday! (I’m weird, I love my birthday). .. How could the night be anything less than terrific though? I shouldn’t have been nervous.  It was fabulous!  Christopher would have had a blast.  Actually, I bet Chris DID have a blast.  It was obvious he was in the room; I could feel his presence as could so many others.  The food was plentiful, the room was decorated beautifully and there was happiness in the air. 
Chris couldn’t wait for the senior banquet to arrive and he talked about it with me a couple of times in November.  We were brainstorming about what the coach’s gifts would be.  The team captains have the fun task of going shopping together for gag gifts.   
They did a great job of presenting some light-hearted toys to the coaches and poking fun at them. Coaches have quirks and habits too just like players do!   
The captains get time at the banquet to turn the tables and poke fun on behalf of the team and they did a great job!  Very funny stuff!  Chris would have been impressed!  As the captains shared stories about the coaches and handed over their gifts it dawned on me that Chris had mentioned to me a gift for Coach McQuade that wasn’t given to him.  So… I’m purchase and deliver it myself.  I only wish I fully knew what it meant but I’m sure the other linemen will fill me in.  Hang tight Coach McQuade, there’s one more gift on the way.  (I bet the boys are wondering now too)…

This season’s football banquet happened to be a bit different in format due to the passing of Chris.  There was a beautiful tribute to him and a video as well.   I’ll post the links for those later once they’ve been uploaded and if you’re interested you can watch. 
A special thank you to Christopher Miller, a player on the team, who put the video together.  What talent!  Are you going to film school???
During the tribute, Coach Clawson talked about the character and support Chris provided to the team.  How he watched over the players, especially the sophomores and led them onto the field when they were sometimes apprehensive and unsure of themselves.  Chris knew what it felt like, he too played as a sophomore and was scared to take to the varsity field with players that were as much as three years older than he was. 
It was intimidating and he remembered the feelings so he was aware of how the younger guys felt.  When Chris spoke to the players in the locker room it was always with a purpose, not just for the sake of talking.  He adored the sport and he wanted 100% from everyone for the betterment of the team.  It seems they listened.  Each of the forty-five varsity players last night was engaged and emotional during the tribute.  Mike and I have never felt such love and affection for our son.  How blessed we are!

In the seventeen short years of Chris’ life he left a legacy behind.  His name will forever be a part of the Shenendehowa football program and a new tradition will begin this fall in his honor!  He never missed a year from kindergarten on up.  He played other sports as well but none of them stuck like football did.  You know how some teams have a ritual before taking to the field?  Well, the SHEN varsity team will have a wall plaque installed by the doorway of the locker room to touch and chant to on their way out to the field.  How nice is that?!  Thank you coaches for surprising us with this heartfelt new tradition!!  We can’t wait to see what the finished plaque looks like when it’s installed and I hope to watch the varsity team of 2013 on the night of the first game when this new tradition takes form.
A new award has been added to Shenendehowa  varsity football forever more as well.  “The Chris Stewart Memorial Award”.  Mike and I had the pleasure of helping to formulate the criteria for earning it. “This person must show a great love and respect for the Junior Plainsman players.  He must display a great amount of respect for his teammates and opponents and be a great role model committed to help mentor and guide underclassmen during their transition to varsity football”.   
The award winner for the preliminary season was #51, Brian Shellenback!  Congratulations Brian!!! :-)

The coach’s had team shirts made especially for the players.  These are special, they’re not for sale, they’re not mass produced and you can’t buy one.  The group intended to wear this tee shirt are the elite group of forty-five who complemented Chris on the field.  How considerate and generous to give the players a bit of Christopher to keep forever.

There were some wonderful awards given out during the evening and Chris was fortunate to receive “The Lou Gerard Outstanding Lineman Award” for his dedication and achievement.  Mike and I were more than pleased to step forward on our son’s behalf and accept the gold football Chris was hoping to one day to receive.  Well done Chris!  You deserved that gorgeous trophy!!  You make us so proud.
It was a wonderful, full evening of emotions and joy.  I was happy to speak for a few minutes about my son and I had the opportunity to address the players, parents, coaches, cheerleaders, staff and families.  I thought I’d never be able to get the words out, especially since I was unprepared and didn’t expect to speak.  Somehow I managed to take a look out at the crowd, and in the quickest of moments my mind eased and I thought to myself “be calm… these are Christopher’s friends, why be scared?” so I managed to feel comforted.  Thanks Chris!  He gave me the strength to stand up tall and thank each one of them for their gift of loving my son.   
They wouldn’t hurt if they didn’t care.  And they care a lot.  I couldn’t be more proud to belong to the Shenendehowa school district and in particular this football family.  I can understand why Chris loved going to school and why he always lingered and was one of the last kids to leave.  It makes perfect sense.  It was a fantastic night.

Thank you for reading.


  1. A window into a typical morning at the Jordans. Terri shuffles downstairs...

    "Good Morning" -T
    "Good Morning. Coffee's on" -K
    "Thanks. So did you read 'the blog' yet?" - T
    "Yeah. She didn't write about the banquet today" -K
    "She was probably tired and emotional. Maybe tomorrow".

    And then I read and have my coffee... we talk about 'the blog' together, wonder about you and your heart healing, your life, and Chris. This is the starting point for us every day - a seed of caring and connection on a personal level that often spreads to talking about others as well ... It's a perfect ritual.

    Thank you for this piece. I can imagine that emotion and involvement enveloped you and allowed for feelings of deep connection, but not without some heart-breaking pain as well. You are blessed to have raised such a talented, compassionate young man. And I can feel your gratitude for the iconic memorial to his character.

    God Bless you today. Enjoy your Saturday. May the caring in our community warm your soul and may the sun come out a little more each day and bring light into your world.

  2. I read quickly but plan to go back a reread ... You are truly an amazing women... it is no wonder Chris was the way he was he had a wonderful role model !!!

  3. It was a wonderful night Regina!! I didn't really cry at the banquet, but reading your blog made me cry. Chris was one of a few players that talked Anthony into switching from playing soccer to playing football, I now understand why. I am so happy he became a member of this family. It has made for such wonderful memories. The last two years have been such a wonderful experience for Anthony, as well as Mike & I. We will miss it when it ends!!!

  4. Congratulations Regina! What a beautiful trophy to add to Chris's room. I'm sure he is beaming. We all can see how hard he worked at the sport he loved to deserve that award. I rarely post but wanted to mention the criteria you selected for the "Chris Stewart Memorial Award". My son is a 13 year old athlete (not in Shen district) and he has always looked up to the varsity players in every sport he competes in. They need to know the influence they have on the younger kids. I love that this award fosters a "great love and respect for the Junior Plainsman players". Not only can we see from pics you have posted that Chris certainly had that, but it is wonderful that it is out there now in writing, in the form of an award, something to strive for. It is such a win win for both the younger players and older players. The picture of you with the winner captures its essence. Wonderful job! It sounds like the banquet was just perfect. So happy for you.

  5. What a wonderful night you had. I am so happy for you. Chris will forever and always be a part of SHEN. I want my youngest to have the confidence and determination that Chris had on the football field on the baseball field. He loves baseball but lacks confidence. I have been trying to instill that in him. I would love to see the tribute to Chris. Thank you again for sharing. God bless

  6. Good morning Regina. What a powerful night. I did not ask on my reply yesterday about the banquet out of respect for your privacy, I hope you know that. I didn't want to feel like if I asked it would be pressure. I know you know people were wondering... How could we not? Your share about the pre-banquet excitement and anxiousness spoke volumes! I try to keep my replies on what you write because I don't want to pry. I knew that the share would come when you were ready. And I knew it would move me to tears, as it did. As a parent of 2 active kids who have attended these banquets before, I knew what was coming. I think we all did.

    I have mentioned that my son is a spine injury survivor. At his Senior Track banquet he received an award (that I was told he would have received even if he had not been injured) and it's one that he will cherish forever. It was about perseverance. Even garbed in his spine "halo", when he was ready, he went to support his buddies at the meets that he was obviously missing, and after his recovery he tried to get back into running but his body just wasn't there. His coaches were impressed he came out to those long meets to cheer on his teammates, friends and some he considered brothers... bonded for life.

    There is and underlying sense of pride when a parent witnesses a child who is a part of a team on whatever level and whatever type of team that it may be. To witness our children being something so unique is something I will always cherish. The way I always processed it is that every year, even though the Team Name is the same, the team is always made up of different individuals as some leave the sport, graduate, move away, and new members pass the rigorous tryouts and get picked. Each person adds their experience, strength and talent to that team and what we see on the field or on the stage is always unique! Chris was another obviously pivotal member of a unique 2012 Team. Not knowing the awards they hand out, I was not surprised in the least that Chris was awarded “The Lou Gerard Outstanding Lineman Award” given what I have seen on vidoes; pictures; and heard other people say about Chris. He was a true leader and inspiration to his team.

    The legacy left by Chris will forever be a part of the Shenendehowa football program but it will also be a part of those of us who chose to remember him and let him live on through our examples. The younger players whose lives he touched have seen his leadership and undoubtedly want to mirror it. How amazing is that? I know many football players (my brother-in-law is the head football Coach at MIT ** I listen... ) who are so passionate and have learned by those before them. Chris started something at Shen that will live on for years to come. It's so obvious given the wall plaque installed by the doorway of the locker room for the future players to touch and chant to on their way out to the field. What an amazing tribute “The Chris Stewart Memorial Award”! ... simply beautiful.

    I have always said that we live on through the lives we touch, and you and your son have certainly touched my life... Even though my replies are long, they could be so much longer. There is so much I want to say to you, but I have to keep myself from going on...

    God bless and thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of the banquet.

  7. What an amazing evening you had. It must be such an honor to be apart of such an amazing school community and on top of that, the football community. Chris is definitely looking down on all of you and smiling. It's so awesome to see that he was honored in such an authentic and beautiful way!! Thank you for sharing with us!!

  8. Regina,
    All I can say is WOW!!!! What an incredible honor and evening for you and Mike. I knew about the award because I had asked Dawn if she heard what award Chris got, I even posted on FB what an emotional day it was for us the outsiders I can only imagine the joy it brought you!

    Your Blog in the morning of the 31st, a text message from Dawn with a neck brace-free Bailey and then pictures of Bailey back on the board and news of Christopher's award at the banquet left me in tears from morning until night on Thursday!!!

    Job well done Mrs. Stewart job well done...You and Mike should be very proud of the legacy of your son...his legacy belongs to you all!

    God Bless, XO

  9. Regina,

    Sounds like an amazing evening. I'm sure Chris was right beside you smiling especially when he received the Outstanding Lineman Award he was hoping to win. Love the lasting tributes, the plaque the team will touch on the way to the field (I'm sure he'll be right there cheering the team on each game), the shirts for only this year's team and most especially the award which will be given in his honor. You and Mike can truly be proud of the legacy Chris has left behind. He will live on forever in the hearts of Shen football, as well as, all of those he touched. I will look forward to seeing the tribute. Thanks for sharing.

    Hugs and peace.

  10. I'm so happy that the night was memorable. Chris deserves it, you, the team... everyone. It must have felt great to be with the whole team at a joyous event, even if it was twinged with sadness at the loss of an amazing player. Congrats to Chris on his award!
    I was thinking about this situation today and a thought came over me. How tragic, yet how blessed this loss is. Let me explain. Tragic? Of course self-explanatory. However, this is a blessing for SHEN football, the school, the community, everyone touched by this. None of us will ever forget this event, especially not those boys on the football team or Chris' friends. The loss of Chris blesses us all in so many ways. It teaches us to live truly and fully because life is so easily taken away. It teaches us the power of humanity over seemingly unbearable situations, the value of kindness and friendship, and also gives us hope, showing us that, although this situation is terrible, it is manageable. People can get through the worst, together, and come out stronger.
    How much I wish though that this never happened. This is the only blessing I would ever refuse.
    I hope that was clear... Maybe?

    Peace and Love and Hope.

  11. Hi Regina,

    Many of us who read your blog daily wanted to hear all about the banquet. I know the following morning when you didn't mention it .. My thoughts were exactly what your had written. You were probably a bit emotional and needed to process the entire evening, as well as savor some of these thoughts privately.
    I'm sure it was a very emotional night for all involved. How wonderful that one of Chris's closest friends won the award inspired by Chris.
    Congratulations to Chris on his award and to you and Mike too! I can see that trophy in the window seat in his room now :)
    I love the new tradition of touching the wall plaque dedicated to Chris on their way out to the field.. Wow! Truly wonderful of them to have thought of that.. It was not just a gesture but so heartfelt!
    Have a great day a Regina!

  12. Hi Regina!
    Congratulations to Christopher and his beautiful award! A proud moment for you to accept on his behalf. Praying for you

    Hugs. Lela

  13. I read this through tear filled eyes. both sad and happy tears. you looked beautiful.