EPHRATA — I’ve gotten to know the good people of the Columbia Basin over the past couple of years and come to enjoy the personalities of each community.
Things like the rueful smile on Rudy Flores’ face when I asked if the Knights cross country team was changing the culture in Royal City from football to distance running. Not.
I am forever asking for golf tips from Ephrata senior Kenedee Peters. I want to hit like a girl, that girl at least. The jury is still out on what Jakob Oxos enjoys more, knocking down 3s or scoring touchdowns. The smile on the Ephrata senior’s face Saturday night reminded me, it’s all good.
I didn’t know Jayda Harmon well. But like the rest of us, I wish I had more time to connect with that kindred spirit and character that reminds me of what is good in this world.
Jayda fought the good fight against an incurable disease and left us all too soon.
She was a wonderful young woman who earned a soccer scholarship to Walla Walla Community College, but didn’t get the chance to chase the dream when she was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma.
I remember the last time we talked. Tigers coach Hillary Coomes retired Harmon’s No. 7 jersey and expressed the team’s and the community’s support at a high school soccer match they dedicated to her.
It wasn’t so much in memory of as it was, “We appreciate all that you are and it’s time to say that out loud.”
Her laugh was genuine. Her spirit was free and she was truly touched with the concept of the “Jayda Game” and what it meant to the soccer community, as well as the town of Ephrata.
“I’ve lived in Ephrata all my life and it’s pretty special to see the people come out. Ephrata is definitely family,” she told me. “We all know each other in some weird way and we all get together when someone needs help. It’s nice to know people care.”
That long beautiful auburn hair that hung well past her shoulders was gone, the victim of chemotherapy and the treatment that began back in May. But she laughed, signed autographs and enjoyed the day.
She hugged her teammates and even enjoyed a group hug when the Grandview team joined in a mass showing of love and support for one of their own.
“Her attitude is amazing. She’s a strong individual mentally and physically, that’s just the way she is,” Tiger coach Hilary Coomes told me then. “Once you’re Ephrataite or even a newcomer, you’re part of a family. The beautiful part of Ephrata is it’s not just the soccer community, people have been so willing to open up their pocketbooks and help support in anyway we can.”
We call it a bucket list of things we want to do in our lives. My only wish is that Jayda could have played that one season at Walla Walla in 2017. Walla Walla won the NWAC East Conference and competed in the conference tournament and it would have been fitting for the former Ephrata Tiger to take her place on the field of honor and play community college soccer with the best players in the Pacific Northwest.
As we move forward through the holiday season, maybe we could all take a page from the Jayda Harmon journal of life and make the world a better place.
Be a little less active on the horn during commutes. If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all. And remember always that smile that told us that it’s all good.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer at the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org