I believe there are angels among us ... angels such as Waterford's Marissa Walker
Waterford — Angels help and guide us, “Touched By Angels” author Eileen Elias Freeman wrote, “in as many guises as there are people who need their assistance. Sometimes we see their ethereal, heavenly shadow, bright with light and radiance. Sometimes we only feel their nearness or hear their whisper. And sometimes they look no different from ourselves.”
And it required little spirituality one night last week to see the angel among us, this high school kid who commanded the attention of an entire gym.
This was last Friday night at the “X,” otherwise known as the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse at Waterford High. The requisite pregame rattle and hum, buoyed by a crowd in excess of 1,000 to see basketball, suddenly got quieter than Sunday morning. The angel had their attention.
And Marissa Walker spoke. For no more than a minute. She addressed the crowd about childhood cancer. On the night she was responsible for raising nearly $2,000 to fight it.
Anyone familiar with Walker’s story struggles with the why. She was eight years cancer free Nov. 8, but still struggles with unthinkable pain that has come with an expandable prosthetic inserted into her left leg. Originally diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2009 at the age of 9, Walker underwent surgery twice last summer and endured yet another recently to reinsert a component into her tibia.
Why this innocent kid?
But maybe — just maybe — this was why. This wondrous scene inside the X, this kid who commanded every eye and ear, this angel among us inspiring people with and without the disease.
It requires faith, a deep faith, to conclude this is why Walker, now a Waterford High School senior, was afflicted with cancer. It requires faith, a deep faith, to truly believe things happen for a reason — and those reasons aren’t always understood.
Maybe Marissa Walker’s reason is to live as a beacon. To reinforce the belief that it’s not what happens to us, but how we react. If this kid can conquer cancer, despite the recurring pain of repeated surgeries, who are the rest of us to wallow about anything? If this kid can conquer cancer, other kids can, too.
Maybe this — yes, this — is why God put her here. And look what’s transpired. She’s been a varsity swimmer and softball player. She’s headed to college, the University of Miami, next year. She has given her classmates not only an awareness for the disease, but to experience of power of selflessness, teaching often myopic teenagers there’s a deeper obligation here than your own self-interest.
Waterford kids know better than anyone else the perils and ravages of cancer. They lost popular teacher Josh Eudy to it a few years ago. They’ve fought the fight with Walker. The softball team “plays for the cure” every year against Stonington. The wrestlers “wrestled for the cure” a week ago Friday.
Now the basketball team, sporting gold to symbolize its fight, got introduced to the crowd in a different way Friday. Public address announcer Andy Walker (Marissa’s uncle) didn’t merely alert fans of the starters’ class, number and height, but along with them introduced us to children who lost the fight with cancer, for whom they dedicated the game.
It was quite inspiring to see the opponent, Ledyard, not only join the fight by being announced the same way, but raise some money, too.
And this was a Marissa Walker Production.
It’s doubtful Walker realizes her angelic pursuit. It’s her life. It’s what she knows. And nobody takes time to dissect the moment when they’re in it. But how can any of us look at her — who she is and what she stands for — and not want to be better? Live better?
It’s too powerful a pursuit for words.
And so we revisit the words of Eileen Elias Freeman:
Angels help and guide us “in as many guises as there are people who need their assistance. Sometimes we see their ethereal, heavenly shadow, bright with light and radiance. Sometimes we only feel their nearness or hear their whisper. And sometimes they look no different from ourselves.”
And sometimes, they’re high school softball players.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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