Dillion Achord Sr. had a dramatic conversion experience as a teenager when his best friend took him to a revival. After that he become more zealous than the friend who took him to the revival.
He became a Baptist lay preacher. Spent lots of time witnessing. Some people figured it was just a phase, but he remained fervent–until the wheels started falling off his life.
Despite his zeal, he never wanted to become a pastor. His dream was be a high school football coach. After that, he rarely went by "Dillon". Everybody called him "Coach". He liked that.
Mentoring the next generation, that was his goal post–more than the goal post on the field. Mind you, he had a passion for football. He knew what was going on in the lives of his players. He prayed with them and for them. He had voluntary home Bible studies for players. The football field was his mission field. They respected and revered him. He was a role model of manliness. For many, he was the only father-figure they had to look up to.
Then his wife left him for another man, abandoning their teenage son. Life without a wife was a physical and emotional hardship.
His son might have been a huge consolation were it not for the fact that Dillion Jr., or "Junior", as he was always called, was hard into teenage rebellion. That originated in rage over his mother's desertion. Made worse because Junior started hanging out with juvenile delinquents. So he started getting into trouble with the law.
As a result, his father's grief over the breakup of the marriage was compounded by grief over the stormy relationship with his son. With just the two of them living together, it was an ideal time for them for father and son to deepen their bond, but instead, forces were tearing them apart.
Coach used to go to the football field to pray, walking round and round the track after school when the field was deserted. His prayer life use to be full of praise, contrition, and thanksgiving, but now he was yelling at God.
After he picked up his son at the police station for–he lost count–they got into a shouting match at home, and Junior ran away from home. That led to more yelling at God.
To make matters worse, he lost his job. Although he loved the players and they loved him, the town loving winning, and the team lost more games than it won.
That's in part because Coach didn't always pick the best players. He didn't pick boys from well-to-do families. He picked working-class guys. Many came from troubled homes. Football was his ministry. He recruited boys who desperately needed someone to befriend them. Coach cared about sinners, not winners. They put their heart and soul into the game because they adored their coach, but they never had the talent to beat the best teams. Most parents didn't appreciate his priorities. They wanted winners, not losers.
When he was fired, the team was furious. It was a tearful farewell. But turnover is rapid in intramural football.
After that he yelled less at God because he prayed less. He lost his wife, his son, and his dream job.
He took a job at the local used car dealership. In a small town he had to be nice to customers who got him fired.
A few months later he began to feel stabbing abdominal pain and back pain. He went to the doctor. After a battery of tests, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was dire.
At that point Coach dropped out of church. And his prayer life, already at low ebb, dried up entirely. He might as well die. He had nothing left to live for.
A few weeks later, his estranged son found out through the grapevine that his dad was dying of cancer. At first, Junior was dumbfounded by the news. Then he drove back to his dad. All that time, Junior was living just one town up the road. He wept all the way back.
When Coach came to the door, Junior was shocked to see how gaunt he was. He dad was always buff. But now he was wasted.
Junior moved back in. Fixed all the meals. Bathed his father. Helped him use the bathroom. Gave him morphine injections.
As Coach became increasingly bed-ridden, he asked his son to read the Bible to him. Mainly from the Psalms and the Gospel of John.
One evening, Junior cradled his dad in his arms while recounted happy memories of stuff they used to do together when he was younger. Hiking, hunting, rafting, horseback riding. His dad would nod or smile at each anecdote. It all came flooding back in Junior's mind's eye–which is why he didn't notice when Coach became unresponsive. He craned his neck around and saw that Coach's pupils were dilated. His dad died in his arms. Junior got out of bed, closed his father's eyes, kissed him good-bye, and pulled the sheet over his face.
Junior used to visit his father's grave every day, weather-permitting. Later he brought his little boy along. Then he drove to high school football practice. His son played around the bleachers while Junior coached the team.