February 29, 2020

Dear Mamba Basketball Team

Photo from slamonline.com

Dear Mamba Basketball Team,

I hate that I am writing this to you because it means there has been an incomprehensible tragedy. I will not try to describe the layers of pain and sadness you are possibly going through. I will not tell you that everything is going to be fine, when you might reach a new reality of normalcy, or how to exactly process the passing of your teammates, friends, and coaches.

You do not know me, and we will probably never meet. But I know you. I know you because I have been you, and it breaks my heart that anyone else has to go through this kind of loss again. My best friend and teammate was in a fatal car accident on the way to our basketball game on January 22, 2002. She was taken off life support six days later when her brain showed no activity.

The last week of January has been hard for me since 2002. You were not even born yet. I do not tell you this to discourage you. I tell you that I have remembered my best friend for eighteen years and will for the rest of my life to let you know that you will never forget your friends. Some of you may think about them every single day for the rest of your lives.

For each of you, your life journey has now changed tremendously. Right now, you have each other, you have your parents, your families, and your school friends. Please lean into these people who care deeply for you. It doesn't have to be a long conversation of processing your feelings; it can just be trusting someone enough to let them hold you while you cry. If you're not able to cry, there's nothing wrong with you; grief is different for everyone.

Do not feel badly if you cry everyday or you can't cry at all. Do not feel badly if you are able to laugh again or have fun with your friends or enjoy basketball. Everyone's timeline will be different in their recovery, and please do not be upset with each other if there are different reactions with every new day.

I learned -- and am still learning at age 34 -- so many things from when my friend passed away. But the biggest thing I took away is this.

When a person close to you dies, you have two choices: 1) you can choose to die with them, or 2) you can choose to live for them.

I did not know your teammates. But you know them. You know what they would want you to do.

From everything I have gathered reading the internet this past week, it sounded like your teammates were on track to change the world, and especially the world of women's sports. If they were on track for this, then I believe their teammates -- you -- are also on track to be world changers. In so many ways, you are now much older than your actual age reads. Embrace this, and really think about how your teammates and coaches would have wanted you to remember them through how you now will live your life.

If any of you want to talk about anything, anytime, whoever is reading this message to you will provide you my email and contact information.

If you remember anything from this message, let it be this: your teammates will be with you every single day. Keep them with you, carry them with you through your life, and do and become all the things they will never get to.

My thoughts, prayers, hugs, and tears are with you and your loved ones.

Christy Swagerty

For more information about my basketball teammate who died in 2002...