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When life, sports meet to show tender hearts

October 4, 2010

It was 3:41 a.m. Thursday and time to go home.

A long day. But, for others, it was far worse.

Before heading out the door I decided to check Facebook one more time so see if any friends on the west coast had posted something good.

"This is amazing" one of my friends wrote.

So, I checked it out.

It was Wintley Phipps singing "Amazing Grace" and telling a story how people can play the black spirituals on just the black notes of the piano.

The song was written by John Newton and first published in 1779. Newton was an owner of a slave ship and later in life became an ordained minister.

I've seen it many times before, but it was time to watch and hear it again. I highly suggest anyone who has not seen and heard this, please do so. His voice is from God.

I sat and listened with my eyes closed.

Once that was over, I had to listen to him sing another one of my favories - It Is Well With My Soul. That's another must.

His version is brilliant.

Just brilliant.

Spafford lost his only son at age 4 due to scarlet fever in 1870, one year before the great Chicago fire. He had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan and that fire wipes out all of those holdings.

Two years after the fire, Spafford was heading to Europe with his wife Anna and four daughters - Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta - to assist D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey in an evangelistic affair in Great Britian.

The day the family was due to depart in November, Spafford had to stay home because of a business transaction and he sent his wife and daughters on the S.S. Ville du Havre.

On Nov. 22, the ship was struck by an English vessel, the Lockhearn, and sank in 12 minutes.

Nine days later Spafford received a telegram from his wife, it simply read: "Saved alone."

It is said that daughter Bertha Spafford, born after the tragedy, said that during her dad's voyage the captain of the ship called him to the bridge and said, "A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked.

"The water is three miles deep."

Spafford returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics to the hymn.

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul."

I was at Franciscan University of Steubenville Wednesday night to interview Mike Ditka at the 102nd-annual Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce dinner in Finnegan Fieldhouse.

I received a text from my daughter at 5:33 p.m. which simply said: "Travis passed."

Travis Worden was an 18-year-old who was in a terrible motorcycle accident on Sept. 25 while on his way to work.

His life was in jeopardy from the moment it happened.

Facebook became a place for people to ask others and others and others to pray for Travis, his parents Randy and Dawn, and sisters Haley and Heather.

Texts were flying asking the same thing.

His battle ended Wednesday and he went to be with God.

I received a phone call from Madonna volleyball coach Joe Edmiston at 8:24 p.m., he left a message saying, "You won't believe what happened tonight. Give me a call."

Haley Worden is a junior at Madonna High School, where she cheers and plays volleyball. The Blue Dons had a home volleyball match that night with Morgantown Trinity.

5:10 p.m.: The team learned of the passing of Travis.

5:20 p.m.: The principal and coach from Morgantown Trinity came to Edmiston and offered to cancel the game and reschedule due to the current circumstances and the visible emotions of the Madonna team.

5:25 p.m.: The team gathered with the coaches in the school chapel for a prayer service led by the school's designated Pastor Dean Borgmeyer. During this service the girls let out their emotions and prayed together for Haley and the Worden family.

5:45 p.m.: The team returned to the locker room for the game and spent some quiet time together. During this time the team said that they were playing the game for Haley and Travis. In a sign of unity the entire team put a "4" on their left cheek symbolizing Haley's volleyball number and a "632" on their right cheek symbolizing Travis' motocross number.

6 p.m.: JV game started with Trinity jumping out to a 10-2 lead. Madonna took a time out to calm the girls down and they rallied back to win 25-15, 25-3.

6:45 p.m.: Prior to coming out to the court for warm-ups, the varsity team took a moment of silence to control their emotions. Warm-ups did not go well as the players looked like their minds were not on the game for obvious reasons.

7 p.m.: In the huddle prior to the start of game, one the girls prayed for Haley and her family. The team broke the huddle and jumped to a 5-0 lead before playing three great games to win 25-23, 27-25, 26-24.

8:15 p.m.: After victory the team assembled on the court to pay their respects again in prayer and to celebrate their teamwork.

"Our girls showed more heart and dedication than I ever could have hoped for," said Edmiston. "Prior to the game I told the girls that I did not care what the scoreboard said after the game, they were winners for having the courage and strength to take the court to honor their teammate.

"During the game you could see that their will to win each point was too strong to let them leave with anything less than a victory. We rallied back from every lost point with more and more intensity. From a game standpoint, the girls played their best career games."

"The team came together and fought hard to win a game for Haley and each other," said captain Mary Gardner.

"Everyone was emotionally upset, but when we stepped onto the court, we put our emotions aside. Our team came together and gave 100 percent and played the way Haley would have wanted us to," said captain Jenna Littlejohn.

"Although not all of us know Travis, the whole team was affected by this tragedy. We pulled through as a team and we played the game for Haley," said captain Samantha Myers.

My mom's mom buried three of her children and my dad's mom two.

I cannot comprehend a worse thing for a parent and pray I never will.

I also cannot understand how people go through this without prayer and a trust, belief and faith in God.

Again, sports became a way for young, tender-hearted young women to come together for something bigger than winning a volleyball match.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.

And Grace, my fears relieved.

How precious did that Grace appear

The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come;

'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far

and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.

His word my hope secures.

He will my shield and portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun.

We've no less days to sing God's praise

Than when we've first begun."

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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