There are words that I am not prepared to type. It's been six days now. The rush and turbulence are over. Aly is out with some friends. I just put Mason back in his car to head up to Erie, back to college life at Penn State Behrend. The house is quiet.
Many of you who have followed this blog from afar were not in the gym to witness the beautiful memorial service put together with cooperation between Curran Funeral Homes and the Kiski Area School District. Wow. If expectations can be exceeded at a funeral, well that is special. We are talking about Ellen Jane Mangus Toy. They gave her everything she deserved.
And thousands showed up. At one point we were informed that there were two hours of people yet to see, and we only had a 1/2 an hour to do it. Suffice it to say, some people did not get to console us. But even they were treated to three video screens set up to tell our story in pictures, and one that played a special video tribute created by Eli Lily, part of a documentary they had shot about Ellen and I. The gym proved to be the perfect place to memorialize Ellen. No where else would have been big enough, or nearly as fitting.
About a two weeks ago Ellen got a thank you letter from Margaret "Maggie" Jones. Maggie is a former student, former player(our first libero at Leechburg) and Ellen's assistant coach from the weeks before Jaime Vick-Moran passed away. In fact she took her post the week we found out Jaime was dying. One of her first jobs was to console. Her letter struck a chord with Ellen. It was emotional and spoke to every aspect of Maggie and Ellen's long meaningful relationship. We both agreed it would make the perfect eulogy. Maggie was fast to respond. She would be honored. Here tonight is that letter. I love letter to a coach, mentor and friend. Thank you Maggie.
How do you thank a person who has been so influential in your life - who has helped form your values and mold your character - who has served as a teacher, coach and mentor - most of all, who has displayed genuine and sincere friendship. When I think about the impact you have had on my life, I am brought to my knees in thanksgiving to God for blessing me with you. But I know that I'm not alone. I know there are 100s and 100s of other women who might have played for you, who might have had you as a gym teacher, or have just come across you through fate - and you have had just as much a significant impact on them all. Ellen, your work is almost over on this earth. I don't know about you, but there has to be some relief knowing you can finally place that check next to all of the tasks you have ever accomplished, all of the goals you have ever reached. And among your greatest accomplishments and goals were your two beautiful children, your loving husband and your devoted family. Not too far away, I know your players have also been something you have given your heart to. I knew you first as a teacher. I think that's where any student who had you was changed in a positive way because of the compassion you showed to each and every one of them. As a a gym teacher, you don't just have a certain group of students - you have them all. From kids who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a tennis racket, to kids who couldn't afford an extra set of clothes to wear for gym or tennis shoes, to kids who might have never used deodorant, to the kids who playing a sport is the last thing they could be caught doing, and you loved them all the same. You treated them with genuine kindness and fairness. I learned from a very young age, 13, what compassion looked like, just by having you as a teacher - what fairness looked like, just by having you as a teacher. And I'm not alone. Every student who's ever walked the halls at Leechburg can say Ellen Toy was a blessing in their life.
And that's just as a teacher. Coach, my goodness, talk about somebody who loved the sport, loved the players, loved making the players better for that sport, but most of all, loved using that sport to make those players better people - that's you! Without a doubt, every person who has ever played for you was a better person for having played for you. Is that not the greatest compliment a coach can receive? I look at the banner in Leechburg, and think wow, there might not be any year on it, but that doesn't mean you weren't a championship coach. From day 1, your players respected you and worked hard for you. Whether it was coaching at Plum where you were crowned a champion, building a program at Leechburg or revitalizing a program at Kiski - you have spent a good portion of your life coaching young women and making respectable, responsible, hardworking people out of them. Having had you as a coach, I know now what a 100% is. There were practices where I didn't really like you because you pushed me to be the very best I could be. You turned that cocky, arrogant, know-it-all player into somebody that was a better person, and I can't thank you enough for that. You poured your heart out into each of your player's lives - that it wasn't just about the team, but we just wanted to bust our butts for you - because that's how amazing you were to us. So from any player you have ever had throughout your entire coaching career, know that you were by far the greatest coach that any of those players had - and that they were better people because they played for you!
And just when you thought you can't be any better, whether it's at leading your students-teaching, leading your players-coaching, I then realized your greatest role in my life wasn't until I was an adult, out of college, and you asked me to be your assistant coach. And in our time coaching together, my life has been eternally changed. You showed me how to lead, how to inspire - everything I am as a coach and teacher is because of you. And for anybody that's ever coached with you, we can't thank you enough for mentoring us, inspiring us, and leading us so that we may do the same for all of the girls we ever coach.
But it's not done yet, an amazing teacher, an amazing coach, an amazing mentor - but perhaps what I'm most blessed and appreciative for is the amazing friendship I have in you. I have to say, you are one of my most favorite people. Our times together were always special, and I always walked away happy and blessed that I had that time with you. You are so amazing. How can I thank you for all that you have not only done for me, but for so many people? In my times of hardship - who was there? You. There are so many memories that I will treasure forever - so many special memories I hold close to my heart. And, there are 100s of other people who will be saying the exact same thing as me. So many people live a life that is a wonderful life, that in the end of their life, they feel that they've inspired people, they've accomplished goals, they've worked hard and they're ready to rest. And then there's Ellen Toy, who has faced adversity after adversity - and through it all - has been a source of inspiration, a positive guiding light for those in darkness, a source of comfort and strength for those who are weak and has helped so so many people, that the work you have accomplished on on this earth - not many can compare to. How couldn't you be tired? How couldn't you be weary? For all that you have given, the world and God has asked a lot of you, and you gave everything single thing you had. On my death bed, when my final day has come, if I've accomplish half of what you have accomplished, if I've touched just a quarter of the people you touched - I will have lived a worthy life. Without a doubt, the Lord is pleased. He will welcome you, embrace you and he'll recite these words: Well done, my good and faithful servant, well done. Rest in him Ellen - with whatever time you have left, give your life to him - let his peace overcome you. For it's only a temporary while you will be without your family, and it's for eternity that you will be with them again. I love you, I love you so so much, and from the bottom of my heart I thank you. For every student you've ever taught and shown compassion and kindness to, we thank you. For every player you have ever coached and made into a better person, we thank you. For every person who has coached with you and has learned how to lead because of you, we thank you. And for every person who has crossed paths with you, whether for a brief time or for years - we thank you for your loving friendship and your genuine sincerity. There will never be another Ellen Toy, and I long for that day that I see you again. God bless you, Ellen. Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.