John and Nell

A real life version of “Up” from the LA Times and Bill Plaschke on a visit with John Wooden.

He said he had talked to his wife every day for more than half a century, and it still wasn’t enough. He wondered, when you are best friends, can it ever be enough?

“I miss telling her things,” he said.

As he led me out of the bedroom in that darkened apartment, I realized he taught me again, only this time it was something that cannot be found in a pyramid or a rolled-up program.

I realized that I had just been given a glimpse into a lifetime of simple devotion, from Nell to UCLA, from a sport that didn’t deserve it to children who will never understand it.

Coach had just shown me the meaning of undying love, and, as he led me out of the darkened room, I quietly wept at its power.

This, though, is why I will not weep today, in the wake of John Wooden’s death at age 99.

Our loss will be his gain.

He will no longer have to sleep with a photo. He will no longer have to pick up a pen. The light of our lives can finally be with the light of his life.

All these things he has wanted to share with Nell, he can finally tell her himself.

“I haven’t been afraid of death since I lost Nell,” Wooden told me that day. “I tell myself, this is the only chance I’ll have to be with her again.”

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