Plainview's Brooks finds healing through football
One moment. That was all it took for the life of Chase Brooks to be irrevocably altered.
The Plainview senior, a wide receiver and defensive back for the Indians, was with his family on a lake trip at Lake Murray on the weekend of Memorial Day. The boat was traveling through the water at night when another boat collided with his.
Brooks' mother, Robbie Lyn, was thrown overboard in the crash and never surfaced.
Just like that, one of the foundations of Brooks' life, his biggest fan and his staunchest supporter, was lost to him forever.
"He was in the water for like four or five hours, swimming up and down the banks trying to find her," fellow Plainview student and close friend James Bowker said.
For Brooks, it was a moment so surreal that even now, four months later, he still struggles to grasp with the tragic events of what had so nearly been a normal family event.
"Within the blink of an eye, your whole world changes," Brooks said. "Even to this point, there are days where you still don't believe it's real."
Plainview coach Chris Berus was one of the first people Brooks reached out to. Berus has never been an ordinary coach, or indeed an ordinary man. For him, the game is important, but always secondary to his mission of being an emotional and spiritual mentor to his players.
Brooks could not immediately reach Berus that night, but when the coach heard a phone message from his player, he knew immediately something was wrong.
"He left a voicemail, and I didn't understand the message," Berus said. "I was trying to figure out when do I need to get there."
When he eventually got hold of Brooks, his message was brief, but one that the entire Plainview community has since adopted.
"We told him that we were available, for whatever they needed," Berus said. "We've got an unbelievable community that rallies around those in need."
As Brooks attempted to piece his life back together in the wake of the tragedy, football became his therapy and his relief from the pain of the outside world. The routine of practice, the repetition of drills and weightlifting; these became his coping mechanism.
"You're focused on preparing for each opponent each week," Brooks said. "It helps keep your mind off of it, because you don't have the spare time to think."
His emotions, still raw and visceral, particularly stuck out to him during Plainview's season opener against Tuttle, the first game of his life where his mother was not cheering him on from the stands.
"I definitely wasn't focused on the game," Brooks said.
And while it is likely that the hole in his heart will never fully heal, he knows that with the help of a strong and faithful support system, a helping hand is never far away.
"I know that any time, if I have any issue, I can talk to coach, or any of the guys out here," Brooks said. "They'll be here for me, and that means everything."
Even though she may no longer be with him, the words and memories of Brooks' mother are always nearby. Three weeks after the accident, Brooks got a tattoo on his left bicep. It shows a scene of clouds, with the dates of his mother's birth and death bookended by the word "life." Above and below the dates is a two-part phrase: "Forever, for always."
It was a greeting and exchange of love between mother and son. Now, it is Brooks' reminder and memorial to the life of the woman who shaped the man he has become.
"It was just something that I felt like I needed to do for her," Brooks said. "'Forever, for always' was something we always said to each other.
"Now, I always have that with me."