I woke up Wednesday to the news an old classmate of mine had died. His name was Ricky Brown, and he was a high school science teacher and a football coach at Bossier High School.
He was 36 years old.
As of this writing, the apparent cause of death was a heart attack. Such sad news. You know, you never think about a person so young dying from a massive coronary. If that's the way you're going to leave this world, you always think your heart will betray you later on in life. No matter your health, your stress level, heart attacks only happen to "old people."
And Ricky was anything but old. Granted, I hadn't seen him in a couple of years, but he seemed the same way he did in high school the last time our paths crossed – fit, determined, strong. I shook his hand that day and asked how life was treating him. Always had a smile on his face, Ricky did. We spoke for only a moment, but it was enough to rekindle the memories. He was a senior at Haynesville High School, and I was a sophomore. He was our quarterback and guided us to a pair of state championships on the floor of the New Orleans Superdome.
He was our leader, the captain of the team, its emotional and steadying and calming core. But Ricky's gifts went beyond the athletic and inspirational. He was a commander in the classroom, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average and was the valedictorian of his graduating class. He was a whiz at Quiz Bowl and hardly ever let any of us others on the team have a chance to answer a question. He earned a chemistry degree from the former Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe (now ULM) and only got into coaching as a later decision.
His first years were spent coaching Friday nights at Memorial Stadium in Haynesville, the same place he guided the Tors to wins on the field. He was now helping guide them to wins from the sidelines.
He leaves behind a wife, Mia, and three young children – Trinity, Kimora and Aaron. Moreover, he leaves behind a legacy. He was a good man. A kind man. A man who was spoken of highly by others and thought of in the same regard. He was a renaissance man in every sense of the word. A man with a variety of skills and a deep, broad base of knowledge.
His death, a tragic twist for a young man and a young, budding family, should serve as a reminder to us all that we never know when the Lord is going to call us home. You should evaluate your life. Realize what's important and strive to embrace those things that matter most to you.
When I see Ricky, my classmate, my teammate, my friend, going home after only 36 years of life, I really thank the Lord for my own time and hope that I can do the best with what remains of the gift that has been given.
I'm reminded of a quote from Pope John XXIII who said, "I believe that, when I stand before God, God will simply ask me, 'How did you use the gift of life I gave you?'"
I can say one thing with certainty; Ricky Brown used his life well. And I can say another; old #12 will be missed.
Josh Beavers is the publisher of the Minden Press-Herald. He is a two-time recipient of the Best Newspaper Column award given annually by the Louisiana Press Association.