“The value of life is not in its duration, but in its donation. You are not important because of how long you live, you are important because of how effective you live.”- Myles Munroe
What is the value of a life? Unlike in hockey, it’s never measured in stats. Height, weight, goals, assists and penalty minutes are inconsequential when compared to lives touched, futures impacted, and being a father to three young men. Few will remember Jim Scheid, the father of Missouri Mavericks forward Eric Scheid, as a 5’ 10”, 170 pound center with 28 goals and 57 assists in three years at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1970’s. What they will remember is a man that raised three sons, loved his wife, and instilled a passion for sports, especially hockey, in hundreds of young people. They will remember a teacher that inspired not through yelling, but through positivity and motivation.
A three-sport star in high school (football, baseball, and hockey) and a two-sport athlete in college (baseball and hockey), the story of Jim Scheid is resilient, courageous, and heartbreaking all at the same time. The Rochester, Minnesota native obtained legend status at John Marshall High School before taking his talents to the University of Wisconsin. While there, “Slip”, as he became known, decided to influence future generations by entering the teaching profession.
To call teaching simply a “profession” is the greatest understatement in our culture. Teaching is an all-consuming lifestyle where a person pours themselves into other people’s children as if they were their own. On any given day, a teacher becomes a surrogate parent, counselor, mentor, leader, nurse, motivator, and an inspiration to their given clientele. Jim Scheid embodied all of these as he worked as an elementary physical education teacher.
“I’m still today getting stories and emails from people that he knew,” Eric Said. “It’s tough, but when you get to hear stories about how much people loved him and the impact that he made on people’s lives, whether it be twenty years ago, they still think about him and care about him. That’s pretty special and a good eye-opener on what kind of guy he really was.”
As his young son, Eric, speaks these words, the pain in his eyes is evident. Think about all the things his dad isn’t around for. His dad missed seeing his last college hockey game, his college graduation, and his first professional game. He’ll miss seeing his future grandchildren grow up; yet through the pain, his son is so proud of the man that his father was. When you have a role model in your life as solid as Jim Scheid, it’s difficult to carry the burden of his passing on your shoulders. But, as Eric speaks it’s as though he knows that, even in his passing, the indelible mark his father left on so many people, young and old, will never fade.
During his sophomore year at Penn State University, Eric received the news no one should ever have to. His dad had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. While this form of cancer is curable in some cases, Jim faced an uphill battle in which he displayed the courage and resiliency that those that knew him expected. This man, this legend, wasn’t going down without one heck of a fight. After some close calls, some moments where it felt like he had turned the corner, and some tears; Jim took a turn for the worst and passed right before Eric’s senior year. The ultimate fighter had been relieved of his pain; no longer bearing the punishment that cancer can inflict on the ones it afflicts.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
While there is grief in the loss of such a great man, there is also great admiration for the fight that was never easy, never graceful, and never certain. In death, there is always life.
For Jim Scheid, it is the numerous lives that he touched along the way; young men that he mentored into more than just great hockey players, but great leaders, warriors, and fathers. There’s a lesson there that we can all learn from: fight the good fight, run the race, keep the faith. Not because it is always easy, but because the times when it is hard will always make you stronger. In his weakness from cancer treatments, Jim gained strength knowing that, although physically he was weak, the fight was still on. When you’re in the fight, you never know who is watching that just might be gaining their own strength for their own battles by observing the one that you are waging. As long as there is a fight to be had, keep fighting. As long as there is one more person to reach, one more student to teach, one more player to coach, keep fighting.
If given one more day on this earth, what would Jim say to his young son, Eric, as he begins his professional career in the sport he and his father loved so much?
“He’d say keep your mouth shut. Don’t complain, just go to work. Earn it, earn everything,” Eric says.
That’s excellent advice for a father to give a son, a teacher to give a student, or a coach to give a player. In fact, if everyone took Jim Scheid’s advice, the world would be a much better place. The important things in life are always the ones that we work the hardest for. Things given to us are simply not appreciated as much as those that must be earned. Things like life; it’s amazing how important the little things become in life and how much you cherish the various aspects of life when faced with your own mortality. A cancer diagnosis will do that to you. Enjoy each moment, take each opportunity to tell the ones you love exactly what they mean to you because each moment following a cancer diagnosis is earned and not to be taken for granted.
“The one thing I was always worried about was how I would adjust to life without him. I didn’t really realize how well he raised me and how well prepared I was for life until he was gone and I didn’t have him there for me,” Scheid Said. “He did a lot for me and you appreciate it so much, but you don’t really know how to say it until he’s gone.”
Your dad knew, Eric. Men like Jim Scheid live life knowing that their life has a higher calling; that the result of their labor will never be something tangible. It will be in knowing that their sons grew up to be men who are prepared to handle whatever life throws at them; even if that means the death of the one who raised them. They know that the young lives that they influence each day in the classroom will, with any luck, remember a few of the things they’re taught them and remember what it’s like to live with character, morals, courage, strength, resiliency and love. Jim Scheid embodied those things in life and is remembered for them in death.
“The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them. Whether you find satisfaction in life depends not on your tale of years, but on your will.” –Michel de Montaigne
The value of Jim Scheid’s life will never be measured by anything other than the love and appreciation those around him have for what he accomplished in his time on this Earth. A life of value lived out to the highest level; making the most of every situation and finding a positive out of each negative. As the stories continue to pour in over the years to come, the reality of how amazing this man of few words was will come into focus. Jim will never be forgotten by his friends, students, colleagues, coaches, players, wife, and sons. They are the embodiment of his values and his well-lived life of value.
Rest easy, Slip, we’ll take it from here.