ARLINGTON, Texas — Two years and three months, and some days for Babe Laufenberg it may as well be two minutes and three seconds.

He must choose to be happy despite the death of his son, Luke, who died in August of 2019 after a fight with cancer.

A Tuesday may provide a series of silent tests for Babe. Some days he passes. Other days not so much.

"People think I'm over it. That it happened two years ago. It's every day I wake up. It's every day I go to bed. I see a baby and I imagine Luke," Laufenberg said in a recent interview. "They call them emotional booby traps."

They are everywhere.

"I'm driving to Liberty Christian to see [former Cowboys tight end] Jason Witten coach and there it is," Laufenberg said. "I drove this road 1,000 times to watch Luke. I got on that road, and ... how did I not know this was going to be one of those traps?"

A trip to the pharmacy for a flu shot was a trap. It's the holiday season, and Luke won't be around to celebrate.

He watches a tight end run a certain route, and the trap springs again.

The purpose of the interview was to ask Babe how people should broach the subject with those who have lost loved ones. In this case, do we bring up Luke's name, or avoid it.

That by bringing up the name, does it keep the loved one alive?

There is no set answer. There is just management of grief, and the acceptance that some days are OK, and some are awful.

"I don't know," he said. "I do like hearing good stories about him."

On Tuesday before the Dallas Stars home game against the Edmonton Oilers, Babe dropped puck as part of the pre-game ceremony for the Stars' Hockey Fights Cancer night.

Before he walked on the ice, the Stars showed a brief video of Luke on the jumbotron.

The PA man then said, "The ancient Egyptians believe that if you say a man's name, he is still alive. So in honor of Luke tonight, let's all his name together in 3, 2 ... 1 ...Luuuuke."

There are good moments, but this fall has been especially difficult.

Luke's college team, UTEP, is enjoying its first winning season since 2014, and is bowl eligible. Luke would have been a junior tight end for the Miners this season. UTEP could win eight games for the first time since 2005.

UTEP has made it possible for Babe, Luke's mother, Joan, and brother Joe Willie, to be a part of it.

After every game the team names a "Luke Laufenberg Hustle Award" recipient. The team unveiled a nutrition station named after Luke in the weight room.

The name "Laufenberg" and his No. 12 jersey are on the field for Miners' games, thanks to his friend, receiver Justin Garrett.

Babe follows the Miners almost as closely as he follows the Cowboys. He talks to members of the team and staff. He will make the 614-mile drive to El Paso to watch the games.

But those drives are quiet. Despite a podcast, or a Bruce Springsteen song, a long stretch of highway invites the mind to go to bad places.

"I'll see him again, and I had never felt so strongly about something like that before," Laufenberg said. "Maybe that helps, a little. Also, in your darkest moments when you really don't want to see tomorrow, one thing that's come back to me is he's going to say to me, 'What the hell are you doing?' I know he'd be upset with me."

Rationally, Babe knows all of it.

Making your mind leave torturous thoughts, memories, and guilt is often the most difficult task anyone will ever face.

There is so much pain and hurt that the desire to just make it all stop is undeniable.

"I have had to fight, to fight, the urge not to see tomorrow," he said. "Nothing takes your mind off it."

He recently attended a Jackson Browne concert, but even that was difficult. Luke liked Jackson Browne.

This is managing grief.

There is always another trap, from a routine drive down a highway to opening a phone that doubles as a photo album.

"They hit you in a split second and they take a long time to leave," he said.

So if you see Babe and want to share a nice thought about Luke, do it. Even if sometimes those moments result in Babe choking up.

Two years and three months later, there are booby traps everywhere. He's accepted that, and the challenge of both avoiding, and dealing, with them.

There is no map to navigate all of the tests that come with losing a child.


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