Six days into 2014, it looked like this might be the worst year of my life.

A longtime family friend, someone I have known my entire life, died early one morning driving to work when another driver crossed the center line. He was pronounced dead at the scene. I still have a hard time understanding that absolutely shocking phone call I received about his death.

A week later my wife’s grandfather passed. We saw his death coming, but ask anyone who has been through that and they’ll tell you knowing doesn’t help. The relationship he had with my wife was something truly special, a bond rarely seen with grandparents.

Coping with these losses was how I spent the first half of January. It made the cold colder, the freezes more bitter, and everything more sad. Even my extremely happy baby boy did little to alleviate our moods.

Thank God I’m from Seattle.

As the NFL playoffs rolled on, it was looking more and more like my beloved Seahawks had a very real shot at winning the title. The simple distraction of their games was instrumental in helping me heal. When the Seahawks played the Saints in the divisional round, that was the day after my wife lost her grandfather. The game didn’t make us forget our pain or our grief, but it did offer a distraction. Seeing the team succeed on the highest stage gave me something to look forward to and it took my mind off all the grief that so quickly had sullied this new year.

Then after the NFC Championship game I got a strange call from my parents. I say strange because they gave me medical information about their lives before whatever procedure they were getting. My father was having minor chest pains and was being tested for various ailments and conditions.

Given how the rest of January had already played out, I wasn’t overly excited about the prospect of my father having heart surgery.

But then the Super bowl came and went. We witnessed an impressive performance from the best team in football, giving Seattle its first professional sports title since 1979 and providing the most important thing of all: A distraction.

I called my dad after the game and talked about many things, most importantly how he was doing since the doctor said he couldn’t have too much excitement until his procedure. We laughed because the game was never close, so he never had the opportunity to get his adrenaline flowing by screaming at the TV and jumping up and down like we both tend to do while watching football (I’m pretty sure it’s a genetic inheritance.) So he didn’t have to worry about his ticker.

The joy of the championship helped take the sting out of a somber start to a new year and gives me hope for the remainder of the year. Is that corny? Sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Couple that with the fact my dad had his heart procedure a few days ago and everything went amazingly well, and I have high hopes for this year. Sports will never take away the pain of the losses, but it can help with the healing.

Jake Murray lives in Copperas Cove with his wife and son.

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