Faith has never been more important for former N-P coach
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Matthew 5:4I sat down at a meeting Monday night, pulled out my phone and saw the Facebook post from Ben Jass.“It’s with a heavy heart, that I announce that Morgan has passed. She was a wonderful wife, mother, friend, and chiropractor. She had a close relationship with God and we take comfort knowing she's in heaven with her Savior.”My heart, in an instant, broke for Ben, his two boys and the family of Dr. Morgan Pommrehn-Jass. She was 35.The day before, Ben and I had talked via telephone for more than 30 minutes, which in the old days, was a common occurrence, especially in the spring and fall.For years, our conversations centered around football in the fall and track in the spring.From 2008 to 2013, he coached and taught at Nashua-Plainfield High School, but I actually met Ben in 2007 when he was a teacher and a coach at my old stomping grounds in Forest City.Almost from the start, I liked the fire he showed and I loved the commitment he had for his kids.We often hear the adage that kids will “run through a brick wall” for their coaches, but Jass was one of those coaches who would do the same for his students and his athletes.In person and over the phone, Jass’ passion for his kids — be it football athletes, track runners or his industrial technology students — was plainly evident.But over time, our conversations went beyond sports and school. We talked about our families, our hopes and our dreams. Corny? Maybe, but a friendship that went beyond the sportswriter-coach relationship was born.He asked about Josh and Noah; I asked him about his two sons — Jag and Tyce. We talked about faith. We talked about politics. We talked about pretty much everything.In 2013, I covered the most heart-wrenching story of my career — the death of one of Jass’ players, Alex Potratz — and I appreciated the fact that Ben Jass, at that very critical moment, was much more than a football coach and a teacher.The following spring, Jass announced he was leaving Nashua-Plainfield to accept a teaching position in Webster City. It was an excruciating decision for Jass, but in the end, the chance to be closer to family — both his and his wife’s — carried the day.It was a double loss for the Nashua-Plainfield community. Not only did it lose a beloved young teacher and coach but it also lost a top-notch chiropractor in Morgan, who literally saved my proverbial bacon one year when she gave my boys their physicals so they could take part in the first football practice of the season.Still, Jass and I stayed in touch, through texts, the occasional phone call and, yes, Facebook, and my respect for the man grew.So on Sunday, as we talked on the phone, my heart ached for my friend.“It’s hard,” he said in a halting voice. “It’s hard to watch your wife dying and praying for a miracle you’re not sure is coming.”In 2009, Morgan was diagnosed with cancer, but by the spring of 2010, doctors told her she was in remission.Unfortunately, the cancer returned and it did so with a vengeance. She and her husband traveled far — to Houston, to Chicago, to Mexico — to find a treatment that worked, but then Monday came.Communities — from Nashua-Plainfield to Alden, where the Jass family currently lives, to Webster City — have come together for fundraisers and prayers.As we talked Sunday, there were at times despair in the voice of Ben Jass.He worried about his wife. He fretted about his two boys — Jag is 7 and going into the first grade while little Tyce is 3 and going into preschool. He wondered what he should do as another school year at Webster City beckons.“We don’t get a day off as teachers,” he said, “and you have to give 100 percent of yourself to your kids. [Last spring], in some ways, it was good for me to have that ...”Now, he is a single father to two boys. Thankfully, he has a wonderfully supportive family and a plethora of friends who will do everything to help their buddy through this time filled with heartbreak and tragedy.As we talked Sunday, the conversation turned to faith.In the most challenging time of his family’s life, when answers are so hard to come by, he spoke convincingly when I asked him about trusting in that faith.“It’s in God’s hand, and He knows what He’s doing,” Jass said. “I pray every day that God will keep Morgan here with me and with our boys. But I’ve also learned through this that Earth is not the place we’re meant to be.”On Saturday, the Nashua-Plainfield Class of 2014 held the first-ever Alex Potratz Memorial Run, and Jass desperately wanted to be there with his former students and athletes.Instead, he was at home in Alden, connected with his Huskies from afar.“Going through that situation was incredibly difficult,” he said, “but as much as I wish it had never happened, look at how Alex has impacted so many lives. It’s hard sometimes, but God does have a plan, and I just pray we can follow it.”God’s plan, we know now, was to bring Morgan home, and I think I know Ben Jass well enough to realize that, despite the pain he is feeling now, he finds some comfort in that plan.So tonight, when your knees hit the floor, say a prayer for Ben, Jag and Tyce Jass. Say a prayer for what Ben Jass and his family need the most right now.“I pray every day that God gives us the strength to deal with the situation the best we can,” he said Sunday. “That’s all we can do.”Three falls ago, Ben Jass and I often talked about the value of football to those Alex Potratz left behind.It gave those Huskies who had lost a friend and a teammate purpose at a time they needed it the most.But in the fall of 2013, Ben Jass was adamant that “football was just a game,” and he was right.Faith, he said back then, was what mattered the most, and three years later, that truth hasn’t changed.