Krissy Z, Stinky, and my stiff neck

I am going to see Krissy’s team play tonight. Haven’t seen them for a long time and I’m not sure why. I love basketball , and it would be difficult to find a coach who is more skilled or more animated.

Krissy won her 500th game in February 2010. She started coaching at Saint Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA shortly after graduating from Penn State, and never left. 27 years, 512 wins. Accolades too numerous to mention. So why wasn’t I there more often?

Believe me when I tell you this particular writing has been in my head since mid November. I can’t keep it in any longer.

I can’t keep it in my head any longer because I won’t see Krissy at the game tonight. Oh, she will be there for sure, but not for any of us to see. On Dec 25, God took Krissy home. At 52. In a twinkling, unexpectedly.

In the midst of the sadness, I am once again reminded of my stiff neck. The same reminder I got when Stinky passed in November. I didn’t write about it then because it is uncomfortable, because I am not proud of my stiff neck. But it is a reminder someone else might need.

Understand that these words have nothing to do with my sleeping posture. Here are synonyms for the stiff-neck in question: bullheaded, obstinate, mulish, stubborn, intractable, willful. God used this term to describe His people during the Exodus. Clearly, it’s not a positive trait.

Krissy and I met through mutual friends. She was great fun, a wonderful story-teller, always the life of the party. I knew she was a good coach, and I had attended some games over the years. But in the last nine days I have heard about a Kristen Zawacki I never knew. A coach and athletic director who was held in tremendous esteem by colleagues and administrators alike, a woman who was deeply spiritual.

I truly liked Krissy. I considered her to be a friend, and hope she did likewise. But 2 weeks ago, I would have used to two words to describe her – funny and loud. “Funny” I appreciate very much. But I just don’t do “loud” – never have. My stiff neck immediately associates “loud” with obnoxious and overbearing. And it keeps people at arm’s length.

It was the same with Stinky. I liked him. I think he liked me. But when he was in the room, you knew it. He was very forward about who he was and what he believed. And I just don’t always find that to be necessary or attractive.

Stinky was also immensely gifted at playing character roles, and assisting in production of shows. More than that, he kindled a love of theatre in hundreds of young people…and that gift keeps his spirit alive. He was a beloved son, brother and friend. But the one thing I didn’t appreciate about him kept me from embracing any of that.

So, for the most part, I missed the wonder of both Stinky and Krissy because my stiff neck doesn’t like “loud.” I focused on that one trait that put me off, and missed all the traits that could have connected us. I am not proud of that. It does not reflect the One I follow, the One who preaches love and gentleness with others.

But here are two cool aspects of walking with God: He, thankfully, doesn’t bury me with a list of all the ways I need revision at once. AND He sticks with me until I get it, until I learn the lesson.

I thought about my stiff-neck when Stinky died. I did…apparently not hard enough, however. If it had sunk in, would there be opportunity to be more open to Krissy? Could it have changed things in a month? I’ll never know.

Two lessons of which I am sure:

1. People have to put up with and overlook things about me. You are probably shocked by that, but it’s true.

2. Getting over myself would be a really smart choice, not only so my actions = my beliefs, but also to prevent further recurrence of this nasty feeling.

Maybe you could learn from this lesson as well? Or is it just me?

Here’s to a new year of more compassion, and better relationships!

And to Krissy and Stinky…I’m sorry. I look forward to seeing you again…and, yes, to a LOUD reunion.