T. J. Lang is an offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers. He successfully plies his trade in the violent trenches of the NFL, battling giant defensive linemen who weigh in excess of 300 pounds and linebackers who are only slightly smaller but who can be cat-quick. Imagine trying to block Clay Matthews, play after play.
He also is a very sensitive man who at 26 years of age is dealing with the loss of his father to lung cancer. In November 2011 his dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. His loving father, Tom, passed less than two months later.
An article in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Lang Finds Peace Lining Up, Making Dad Proud, chronicles T. J.’s last two years as he deals with this tragedy. The difficulties he encounters are there for all to see. So are the signs that show that this man is a highly sensitive, thoughtful, caring, and intelligent young man who understands he makes his living playing a game.
The article speaks of how T. J., just two weeks ago, pulled into his parking spot near Lambeau Field on his way to practice and cried for 20 minutes, recalling that the night before he had dreamed his dad told him he was ok, that he was still with T. J. This kind and gentle giant of a man (in more ways than one) opens up in the article about the emotions and pain he still feels – sadness, anger, loss.
Sometimes these emotions occur almost spontaneously, perhaps upon hearing a song that reminds him of his father or hearing a voice that sounds like his father’s voice. As one battling cancer, I can fully identify with what little it can take to trigger an emotional response, generally in the form of tears or sobbing. And, as I suspect T. J. feels, there is no shame in that. To the contrary, perhaps it is a sign of willingly and maturely being able to experience the range of emotions that make us human and that in turn make life more fulfilling.
This is an article worth reading. And, as you read it, take a look at the accompanying photo that shows T. J. and his father, Tom, hugging in February 2011 as they celebrated on the field the Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV. What a gift T. J. gave to his father – and his father to T. J., that memorable day, less than one year before Tom passed.