Try if you will to imagine Eagle’s Landing’s boy’s basketball team without Eric Wortham this season.
And an even more harsh thought, is what would life in general be like without the standout senior player?
On March 2, 2012, it almost occurred.
We know after the Golden Eagles play their final game in the Class AAAA state tournament that Wortham will no longer be eligible to wear an Eagle's Landing uniform. But last March would have been too early to no longer have the polite, soft-spoken Wortham among us.
Almost a year ago, a playful jab from a friend during lunch sent Wortham Jr. into seizures and stopped his heart.
But the training of school football coach Joe Teknipp and assistant principal Richard Jacoby saved his life. Teknipp used the school’s defibrillator on Wortham Jr. after Jacoby performed CPR on his lifeless body in the school’s cafeteria.
While we are prone to take life for granted, assuming everyday is promised, Wortham Jr. knows better.
He is not only thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Golden Eagles’ region championship basketball team, but he is just happy to be alive.
“I said he’s a walking miracle,” said Wanda Wortham, Eric’s mother. “He was saved for a reason. It wasn’t his time.”
And Wanda Wortham isn’t speaking in terms of just playing basketball.
That reason might be to remind us how precious life is. It could be to serve as a reminder for those gifted with athletic skills not to waste them.
Wanda’s interpretation is one of spirituality.
“He was a chosen child, because of his personality and the strength that he has,” she says “He [God] had to use someone like Eric to prove to the world that he has what it takes, even though he has a defibrillator, I’m going to show you I can do this.”
Now, Eric is back on the court showcasing the skills that has earned him a full scholarship to Middle Tennessee State. Back at Eagle’s Landing sharing laughs with classmates and preparing for graduation in a couple months.
But he is also reminded of the thought-provoking conversation that he and his mother had in Los Angeles as he went to see a specialist.
Eric wanted to know if his family would change his room and discard his belongings had he not survived the seizure last year. His mom said eventually the room would be changed and some of his belongings would have been given away.
Eric told his mother, “No, you shouldn’t change my room because that was me and that’s how you could’ve remembered me as my bed wasn’t made, I may have had a shirt laying on the floor, but that was me.”
Wanda agreed that he had a point, but told him that “you have to move on in life.”
And Eric responded, “But my room was life, momma.”
Wanda recalls saying: “Yea, but it’s not life without you in it, son.”
We are so glad that we didn’t have to experience life without Eric.
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.