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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Steve Christilaw: Freeman High’s football game cathartic

It’s not a vacation, but it can be a much-needed mental and emotional respite.

Especially when it comes to dealing with what no one should have to deal with.

Fear, anger and powerlessness can weight oh-so-heavily on one’s mind and it takes a good deal of time and energy for the psyche to process it all. With young minds, it can all be overwhelming.

That’s why they’re getting back to regularly scheduled games at Freeman High.

Play can be one of the healthiest mental health exercises you can do.

For the community, holding Friday night’s football game was a catharsis. It was a chance for everyone struggling to deal with the aftermath of an unthinkable tragedy through a shared communion.

It was a touchstone of normalcy in a world that had turned reality on its head and then traded it in for the surreal. It was a chance to put aside the myriad thoughts that accompanied the unspeakable facts of last week and reconnect on a beautiful late-summer Friday night over a spirited high school football game.

It was the start, for a couple hours at least, of the healing process.

Getting out of your head and turning off your thoughts for a while works wonders. A nice, long walk, a run or a bike ride can do more for your mental health than you can ever get from a good, brisk sit. When the train of your thoughts threatens to derail you, giving into muscle memory can be an ideal therapy.

That’s especially true for young people.

It worked for me.

I understand some, not all but some, of what the youngsters at Freeman are dealing with. The surreal and the unimaginable combine to leave you unmoored from everything you used to think of as normal.

I was the new kid in town and in what today would be called middle school when my father was shot in a hunting accident.

He was on a hunting trip with a group of friends on the opening day of elk season. His friends thought they heard game in the area and left camp at first light while my dad stayed in camp to get the fire burning and put coffee on for breakfast. He was chopping firewood when a bullet hit him in the abdomen.

It was a freak accident. The bullet had come from so far away that it had stopped the spinning that rifling imparts as it leaves the muzzle. By the time it reached him it was tumbling end over end, which prevented it from mushrooming as designed. That was the first of a number of miracles that allowed him to survive.

That his best friend and hunting partner was a veterinarian was another. They had thought they were alone on the mountain that morning, but when they needed help to carry my father down the hill, help came out of the woods and lent a hand. On a rugged mountain, no one so much as stumbled as they carried him to a waiting vehicle.

That the resident who treated him, once his partners got him to the hospital in Ellensburg, was recently returned from Vietnam as a M*A*S*H surgeon, was yet another miracle.

Before he came home there were several brushes with death and an ambulance ride over Snoqualmie Pass at well over 100 miles per hour to get him to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.

I still remembered the sound of the cry my mother voiced when she was told. And I remember the helpless feeling that overcomes you when you realize there is absolutely nothing you can do to make things better.

I understand how heavy the word “critical” weighs on you when it’s used to describe the condition of someone you love, and when that description continues to be used for days, and then weeks, it wears you out inside. You look normal to the world, but on the inside there’s an empty feeling that never goes away.

Except when you push yourself to play a game that demands your full attention.

Running wind sprints has a way of driving thoughts of anything other than surviving and not throwing up out of your head. You can lose yourself playing defense on a basketball court.

It doesn’t change the gravity of the situation, but it does give you a much-needed break – a break that most often does not come with sleep.

As the Freeman volleyball team got back on the court this week, it will look to get its season back on course after a sudden derailment.

All three of the girls wounded in the shooting have a direct connection to the team. Jordyn Goldsmith and Gracie Jensen both are members of the program while Emma Nees is a cheerleader.

Coach Eva Windlin-Jansen said Monday that there is plenty of time to get the team’s season back on track and will concentrate on finding a way to help her players get better.

Their return to the court tonight for a match with Newport will be a catharsis for them all.

The scars will remain.

But competitive juices make an exceptional balm.

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