Caleb Ulrichs was a one-of-a-kind kid we should all emulate
This one hit me especially hard, which is saying something because there is no worse job in this profession than writing about the death of a young person.
I’ve been doing this for journalism deal for almost 35 years, and all I can say is that Sunday night when I found out that Caleb Ulrichs’ valiant fight against leukemia had come to an end, I cried like a baby.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve always appreciated his parents.
Jeff and I coached against each other years ago, and I still fondly recall the night our parks and recreation baseball teams met in Nashua almost seven years ago because Jeff — more than almost any other youth sports coach I’ve known — understood what it was all about.
Tori has saved my rear end numerous times when it comes to getting timely Water Over the Dam stories into the Reporter.
Maybe it was the fact that I knew this was the third time in three years that Nashua-Plainfield’s Class of 2019 had to come to terms with losing one of their own. We can say all we want that life isn’t fair, but 18-year-olds shouldn’t have to go through this once, let alone three times.
Or maybe it was the fact that my 18-year-old son was sitting next to me when I heard the news that Caleb had passed away.
I looked at my phone, I looked at Noah, I looked at my phone again, and the tears just came.
I honestly believe I wasn’t crying for myself; instead, my tears were for Jeff, Tori and Keegan, Caleb’s little brother. And I cried for those Nashua-Plainfield High School seniors who are so accepting of an interloper like me.
But here’s the deal: When I have to write about the deaths of young people, when I have to call family members to ask them for a comment, I always start with my sympathies and then tell them I want to write a story not so much how their loved one died but how he or she lived their life.
So today, I have no words to comfort Jeff, Tori, Keegan, the Class of 2019 and the teachers and coaches who knew Caleb so well.
All I can say is that the headline I wrote on Page 1 of this edition of the Reporter says it all.
Caleb lived life well.
He was his own young man, and he had a gift to make people — no matter who they were — feel welcome. He broke barriers. He showed all of us that no matter what we did — be it playing in the band, advancing in tae kwon do or becoming a male cheerleader at a small Iowa school — we could do it well, and we could do it with smiles on our faces.
Maybe what I appreciated the most about Caleb — I admit, from afar — was he brought people together long before he was diagnosed with leukemia this past summer.
His circle of friends was large, mostly because my guess is that this young man who turned 18 in October didn’t have a single judgmental bone in his body.
My heart will ache for Caleb’s parents, brother, extended family, schoolmates, teachers and coaches long after his funeral, but my hope for all of them is that they live a life like Caleb did. In so many ways he was a one-of-a-kind kid, and in his much-too-short life, he taught all of us the importance of being kind to others and being true to one’s self. And that’s a life well lived.