This season of joy, rejoice for knowing Dugan, Eudy

And here, the most wonderful time of the year, our sports community doesn't feel much like being of good cheer. The hap-happiest season of all? Parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting?

Not when we bury our friends. Heroes. Mentors. Husbands. Fathers.

It began earlier this week with the death of Jimmy Dugan, 64, former Eastern Board 8 basketball referee, coach, bon vivant. Then came the news of Christmas Day when we lost Josh Eudy, 35, the popular history teacher and volleyball coach at Waterford High School, the subject of a recent school-wide tribute.

Both succumbed to cancer.

There are no words.

But it's been gnawing nonetheless. All week. I've often thought that when my time comes (some of you reader commenters are perhaps hoping for sooner rather than later) my wish will be to repent … and then beg to ask one question:

Why?

That should cover it.

Like why now? Why this week? Dugan and Eudy didn't suffer enough, now their deaths have to come at Christmas?

And so now it was Thursday night at Neilan Funeral Home in New London, the long line of mourners waiting at Jimmy Dugan's wake. They were out the door, around the corner. They partook of more than idle conversation. They told Dugan stories. They needed all the time they spent in line, too, because telling Jimmy Dugan stories could last longer than some marriages.

I was in line behind Jim Fleming, the postmaster in East Lyme, former basketball official. Good guy.

"My favorite Jimmy story," Fleming said, "is that one of my first assignments was with him. We went up to Middletown. Jimmy said he'd drive. I barely got in the car when he says, 'but now you're buying after the game.'"

All the people reinforced the one article of my faith I believe more steadfastly than anything else: God wants things to happen for a reason. We don't always know the reason. Or understand it. We get disillusioned. But that's why faith has been described as walking face-first and full-speed into the dark.

And it occurred to me that the deaths of Jim Dugan and Josh Eudy happened now because there aren't two better examples of what the season means. Really means. They were always there for everybody else before themselves. They brightened rooms by walking in, not the other way around. They were of the people, for the people and by the people. That's why the outpouring of people has been overwhelming.

So now when I think of Christmas, I'll think of Jim Dugan and Josh Eudy. The way they lived. And how they were loved.

Dugan: He was one funny man. I got to know him during his days as a referee and a timer at St. Bernard basketball games. We'd sit at the table, Jim would take note of how neither team could score and shout, "good thing I bet the under." I still use that line today. (Came in handy watching the Sun play last summer).

Eudy: In the pantheon of school tributes, Lancer Nation's effort two weeks ago at Waterford High retired the trophy. It went from the football field to the gym, from the classrooms to the video screens. They spelled "E-U-D-Y" with their bodies on the field and the gym floor. They led "Eudy Nation" rallies. Think of how many teachers and coaches come and go without so much as a whisper. Eudy was their hero.

We should learn from them. In the spirit of the season. Be there for other people. Have a sense of humor. Listen. Volunteer. Pay it forward. Do all the things the season means, well beyond looking for parking spaces at the mall.

This is supposed to be a season of reflection and inspiration. This is why we'll never forget Jim Dugan and Josh Eudy. They made us think, laugh, live and love. Time well spent. Just too damn short.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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