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Reporter's notebook: A complicated life Allison K. Sampite | Sat, May 05 2012 12:00 PM

Wednesday, May 2 was a tragic day. But perhaps the following day was worse.

Thursday morning when the world woke up, it didn't even have to turn on the TV to be reminded that something was different, something was wrong. Outside, there were reminders all around. San Diego had lost its beloved Charger’s linebacker Junior Seau, to suicide.

A football legend, profound community leader and humanitarian was gone.

Seau, 43, shot himself in the chest in his Oceanside home.

Shock. Grief. Anger. If you’re still wondering what to feel, all of these are right emotions. We feel these because Seau’s death was a horrific ending to a fairytale story.

As a superstar linebacker, he quickly gained the love and attention of fans.

I never met Seau. I wish I were one of the many who had the honor. And it’s embarrassing to admit, but in all honesty, I’ve never been to a Charger’s game.

Regardless, I still feel the loss.

As I drove my usual, seven-minute route to work in Chula Vista the following day, Charger’s emblems confronted me in 3-D. Bolts were proudly displayed, but more specifically, the number 55, in memory of Seau.

On the road ahead of me, two trucks drove alongside each other, both displaying the Charger’s crest and other insignia on their back windows. I wondered if they knew about the other’s hometown pride. I wondered as I looked forward, if the drivers glanced over and shared a special moment. It could have been something as small as a nod in acknowledgement, light wave, or even just a moment’s look in solidarity.

As I exited Fourth Avenue from 54 West and made a left, I noticed a man sitting at a traffic signal waiting to turn left, sporting a Charger’s cap.

Traveling up Fourth, I saw a young man sitting atop an electrical box next to a bus stop wearing a Charger’s jersey. He sat patiently. I can only assume waiting to start another day. But it wasn’t just another day. He was another fan—a part of the bigger picture, another sign that we’re all in this together.

As I made a left onto E Street followed by a right onto Landis, a man wearing a Seau jersey waited to cross the street. I paused to let him go ahead, but he insisted to wait on me instead.

As I passed him I was grateful, more so than I would have been the day before, but I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eye.

My short journey from home to work was almost over and it had been an emotional ride.

I recalled an interview with Miles McPherson, former Charger, Seau family friend and longtime pastor of The Rock Church, where he discussed what the community does now.

I stared, glued to the television and listened carefully. His answers were simple but worth their weight in gold.

In essence, McPherson talked about the importance of being aware of what’s going on around us. To pay attention to the people we wouldn’t normally notice and reach out rather than deflect them because we’re uncomfortable.

In another interview, a young girl paying respects in Oceanside said the community is very close-knit. She became emotional when she said that while the community takes care of each other, it wasn’t able to take care of Seau.

How do we make sense of something we never saw coming?

Yes, Seau was an NFL phenomenon and a community icon, but he wasn’t superman.

Death is a powerful reminder that professional athletes are human too. They don’t have super powers. They have real life problems that warrant serious solutions.

To me, his passing was a reminder that we need to make more of an effort to reach out to each other—with words of advice and encouragement, touches of love and compassion and through grace and understanding.

The next time you remember to, offer a hello or smile to a stranger. Give someone in need a blanket or food. Give grandma and grandpa an extra long hug.
 
But above all else, don’t forget to tell those closest to you that you love them today. Life is complicated, made up of fleeting moments. You never know if you’ll get another chance.

Thank you for the bittersweet reminder Junior Seau. May God rest your soul.

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