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David Humm

BUT LIFE IS GOOD by Donna Miesbach

(Donna Miesbach is a published author. Find out more about her at DonnaMiesbach.com)

There was an article about David Humm in our paper last year that touched me deeply. Those of us who have followed Nebraska football know that David was one of the most remarkable quarterbacks our college team has ever had. Records he set some 30 years ago still stand. What I didn't know until recently was that he is just as remarkable as a person as he was as a football player. I say that because David has been engaged in a new kind of battle, and its name is Multiple Sclerosis. What touched me so as I read the article was how David is dealing with his challenge. As David told me in a recent conversation, "I have lived the most incredible and exciting life anyone could ever have asked for. That has continued through to this very day. I just do things a little slower and a little more painfully now, but life is good, and I intend to live it to the fullest."

During David's pro days with the Raiders, he incurred more injuries and had more surgeries than I knew one human body could endure, so he knows how to live with pain. Perhaps his football days were a training ground for what he would have to endure with MS. I don't know, but this much I do know - he just keeps going.

David plays a major role in raising his now-teenage daughter, Courtney. She is his greatest joy. There isn't anything he wouldn't do for her. She is a natural athlete, and participates in many sports. David finds great satisfaction in being her side-line coach as he helps her walk through what he calls her "life lessons," and as he told me recently, he intends to be there for all of them.

This makes for a pretty full schedule, when you consider that, in addition to working full time as director of marketing and sales for a computer programming company, and working part-time as a commentator for all the Raider games, he goes to every game his daughter plays in, and is her on-call taxi for all her activities, sports and otherwise. That doesn't leave much time to "rest the equipment," but he treats his fatigue like he did in his playing days when he "took a big hit." He just tells himself to get up and keep going, knowing he'll feel better when he does. Unfortunately, there are a lot of days like that. David says his friends and his doctors get upset with him sometimes because he won't slow down, but he refuses to give up living his life as he did when he was well. Frankly, I'm not surprised. After all, "life is good," and he intends to live it to the fullest.

Family, friends, and a life of service have always been important to David. He has spoken to literally hundreds of schools and groups, even though he has to do it from a wheel chair. When I commented to David not long ago about how, on that particular day, it seemed like everyone was wanting a piece of me, he knew exactly where I was coming from. It happens to him all the time. The only problem is, "there just aren't that many pieces that are working any more." Then he always adds, "but that's okay, because life is good, and I intend to live it to the fullest."

Debilitating headaches and uncontrollable muscle spasms have taught David to draw on a level of courage and tenacity most of us never have need of, but for David, MS is a nuisance, not a handicap. Perhaps that's why David can maintain his remarkable sense of humor.

David is a legend among Raider fans, but for me it is his largeness of spirit that makes him so special. As you might guess, I'm not the only who feels this way. One of his biggest "fans" was Nurse Mary. She always came
and gave him the shots he needed when his body would go rigid with spasms, leaving him unable to move. The shots were the only thing that would make the muscles relax, so day or night, whenever he needed help, she would come.

Shortly before she died, she wrote David a letter that says it best of all: "David, I have a confession to make. I had this great intention to write an essay on why I thought you should carry the Olympic Torch. I kept writing it in my head, and then I was going to send you a copy, but it never got done, so let's pretend that I nominated you to carry the Olympic Torch, okay? Now I didn't choose to do this because you were such a great athlete or because you have all those honors and awards. I did it because you are a gift. Just because you are. Just because you get up out of bed every day and live the day to the fullest. Just because if I never would have met you, I would have missed out on some pretty important lessons on being human.

"I would not have known how much a son could love his parents and family, how much a father could love his daughter, or how much a man could achieve by learning how to be a true team mate while throwing around some leather. I would have never learned how to ask a friend for help when you need it, and not apologize, but just gracefully and simply tell them what it means to you. I would not have known how to make a friend feel as though they could move mountains just because they came when asked.

"I would never have met a man who did not know the meaning of the words, 'can't' or 'obstacle' or 'impossible.' I wouldn't know how important mentoring and sharing life's lessons with those hoping to follow in your footsteps can be. Nor would I know the value of laughing as much as you can with others and at yourself. I would never have met a guy who could have plaques, awards, trophies, ribbons, and medals adorning his bedroom walls, but chooses instead a crucifix. And I would never have known that you truly can be famous and humble.

"I would never have seen that for some of us you don't have to write a New York Times top ten book on self improvement to share your ideas - you just have to have the determination and guts to get out of bed each morning. Yes, and you can teach without words, overheads, charts, and theories. I also learned, David, that we better help each other out, because we're all in this together. I'm glad I am in it with you. Thanks for the lessons."

Nurse Mary

"P.S. Thanks for 'pretending' with me, David. I know if I had submitted this (with a little more work and polishing) that you would have been at least a finalist. But if you weren't chosen, it would only have been because I can't write as good as you live."

Comments about this article can be sent to Donna Miesbach.