You learn a lot about the way people — and teams and teammates and coaches and fans — think and the way they are in the wake of difficulty, especially when that adversity includes tragedy.
Premature death is as tragic as it gets in this fragile earthly existence. The slamming of a door on beautiful youth is enough to knock the joy out of everyone else, anyone with a caring soul.
Utah football has a caring soul.
Every football program claims they are family.
The brotherhood in and around the Utes, though, is real.
The way Kyle Whittingham and his assistants and his players and administrators have handled — a crude and insufficient way of saying it — the passing of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe has been as close to perfect as imaginable, hitting all the proper notes even as the Rainbirds went off in their eyes and the flow of tears was wiped away.
Taking appropriate pause, issuing heartfelt statements, attending services, appreciating and respecting the departed with deep sincerity in word and action, paying earnest tributes, establishing scholarships, and retiring the No. 22, a memorialization that no player ever for Utah has had, all combined, isn’t any kind of fake show, rather it’s a genuine effort to honor young men worth remembering, worth honoring, young men who need to be remembered.
What young person gone too soon doesn’t deserve that?
It helps everyone involved with Utah football, so many who require it, gain small bits of peace even in their pain. Doesn’t matter if they wear the uniform, wear the coaching sweatshirt, wear the gear and cheer from the stands or from afar. And that kind of support and reaction from the sidelines and the seats helps others, as well. The most important individuals of all — members and friends of the Jordan and Lowe families.
Saying goodbye sucks.
Keeping emotions wrapped inside makes it worse.
That’s one of the reasons it was so heartening to hear Utes fans having “moments of loudness” in paying tribute to Nos. 22.
Remembering is the best solace, even if that remembering hurts because of the separation. It’s as though grieving is love without any place to put it.
It was Tolstoy who said, “Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”
That’s why the fact that the Utes, and everyone associated with them, are honoring with such feeling, such gusto not only respects Lowe and Jordan, preserving their names and preserving relationships held with sacredness among teammates, coaches, family members and friends, it also helps all those doing the honoring to keep that love alive.
Jordan and Lowe have gone away to wherever the departed go, to that great beyond up in the sky, or wherever it is, but they will stay a part of Utah football long after all those who are alive and shedding tears now have tears shed for them, too.
The number 22 will still be retired and seen and honored as future generations come and go. And some child 50 seasons from now will sit in their seat and notice that 22 and wonder aloud, “Who wore that number? Who were those guys?” And some old-timer who is yet young today, will answer and say, “They were Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe. They were great Utes. Pass those names on to your kids.”
And they will.
A tip of the cap, then, to Utah and all the Utes for the way they have gone about making certain that those names, those players, those people, taken too soon in mortality, will remain right where they were before tragedy stole them away this past year — in the minds and hearts of Utah football, and all those who hold it close.
Missed yes, but not forgotten.