I confess that I didn't know Wayman Tisdale's story. I knew a couple of things - he was a terrific basketball player who happened to be a popular jazz musician. I also knew that one of the young men who grew up at the church I pastored played in his group occasionally.
After watching an ESPN documentary about him I found out that I was wrong about the first thing I knew: Wayman Tisdale was a terrific jazz guitarist who had a great career in the NBA. I didn't know about his enthusiasm, his joy and his courage. And knowing those things make it seem appropriate to start off the week with his story.
Usually, when you see something like this you hear people say 'His story is more than cancer'. But without Tisdale's bout with cancer you miss his story. I LOVE multi-talented people who don't try and choose between their talents. But Wayman Tisdale's life was a devotion to excellence to the sport in which he made his living and the art through which he made his life. And when he diagnosed with cancer the infectious joy with which he lived his life and his pursuit of excellence never seemed to wane.
Wayman Tisdale died in May of 2009 at the age of 44. The year before his died he said, "Nothing can change me," Tisdale told The Associated Press, "You go through things. You don't change because things come in your life. You get better because things come in your life." It's just hard to not be inspired by that kind of hope and determination.
I was deeply moved and greatly challenged by Tisdale's story, by his talent, his faith and by his courage. As a cancer survivor, I know how hard it is to maintain that equilibrium when you're confronted with your mortality. But I also know that something to which you can be devoted beyond your illness, your trust in God and mustering the courage to live a moment at a time, is the only way you can make it.
Come to think of it, that's not a bad way to start a Monday...or any other day, for that matter.
By the way, here's an example of Tisdale's music...