Yesterday one of the most impactful speeches ever was delivered. It only went 7 minutes, but it has changed thousands of lives all over for those blessed to have seen it.
It was by Monty Williams. Back in 1994 Monty and I were among those roasted at a charity event here in South Bend, where I live. I was an anchor at the CBS station here. He had finished a stellar career as a Notre Dame basketball player and was bound for the NBA where he would play and is now an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It was in Oklahoma City last week that his beloved wife Ingrid, who he had met his freshman year at Notre Dame when both were students, was killed in a car wreck. I hesitate to call it an accident because the woman coming the other way was driving 92 mph in a 40 mph zone with her dog in her lap. She swerved over the center line directly into Ingrid, killing Ingrid, the other woman and the dog. Three of Monty and Ingrid’s children were in the car but thankfully were only banged up and are okay.
Monty and Ingrid had five beautiful children together, all under 17. She was just 44. From everything I have read she was a gem of a person. Monty has been beloved by everyone in basketball and beyond because of the decent, caring human being he is. Her loss has devastated so many people. When he was head coach of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, one of his players’ girlfriend committed suicide. Distraught, that player slept on the Williams’ couch for many nights as they brought him back from a deep pit of despair.
Yesterday, Monty spoke. Friends and loved ones came from all over the country to Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, no doubt wondering what a man who had gone through indescribable tragedy would say. The first thing he did was think of them and how they were hurting too, not just him and his family.
“I’m mindful of that,” said Monty, of the pain and grief they were going through.
“The Bible says in Psalms 133:1 “Behold how good it is when brothers dwell in unity,” he said, thankful of all of the close support. “Psalm 73:1 says God is good and 1st John 4:16 says God is love. During times like this it is easy to forget that because what we’ve gone through is hard and we want an answer and we don’t always get that answer when we want it but we can’t lose sight of the fact that God loves us and that’s how my wife and I tried, however badly, to exhibit on a daily basis.”
“He loved me so much that he gave me a wife that loved every part of me and she fit me perfectly. I know players over the years got tired of me talking about my wife…but I thought, who else am I going to talk about?”
A couple of deep faith, they had written a book Look Again 52;One Scripture, Every Day, Each Week, For One Year
“Romans 8:28 says God calls all things to work together for God to those that love God to those called according to His purpose.”
He looked up.
“All of this will work out,” he said. “As hard as this is for me and my family and for you….this will work out. I know this because I’ve seen this in my life. See, back in 1990 at the University of Notre Dame I had a doctor look me in the face and say you’re going to die if you keep playing basketball. I had test after test done. My career was over at the age of 18. I kept the severity of the tests from Ingrid and after we had a press conference announcing my condition I went to her dorm room and I told her what happened and the very next words out of her mouth after we cried were, ‘Honey, Jesus can heal your heart.'”
After missing two seasons with an enlarged left ventricle, his heart suddenly was tested fine, and he finished his college basketball career and then played in the NBA for years.
“I’m evidence God can work it out.”
“This is hard for my family, but it will work out and my wife would punch me if I were to sit up here and whine about what’s going on. That doesn’t take away the pain. It doesn’t mean we won’t have tough times, but it will work out because God causes all things to work out. You just can’t quit. You can’t give in. See, the Bible says Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. America teaches us to numb that and it’s not true, but it is true. All you have to do is look around you. What we need is the Lord and that’s what my wife tried to exhibit every day.”
“I’m going to close with this and I think it’s the most important thing we need to understand,” he said. “Everybody’s praying for me and my family, which is right, but let us not forget there were two people, and that family needs prayer as well.”
“And we have no ill will towards that family”
He said this towards a woman whose horrifically erratic driving with a dog in her lap took his college sweetheart and the mother of his five children at the young age of 44, leaving him a widower to raise these children who will never be able to go to their mother when the many challenges and celebrations ahead happen in their lives. A woman driving 92 mph one second before impact and 78 mph at impact.
This wasn’t an accident where a car lost control on an icy road. This was preventable This would lead to rage inside many people, but not Monty.
“In my house we have a sign that says ‘For me and my house we will serve the Lord.’ We cannot serve the Lord if we do not have a heart of forgiveness. That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife. Life is hard. Very hard, and that was tough, but we hold no ill will towards the Donaldson family, and we (he said, pointing to the audience) brothers together in unity should be praying for that family because they grieve as well.”
“God will work this out.”
“My wife is in Heaven. God loves us. God is love. And when we walk away from this place today let’s celebrate because my wife is where we all need to be and I’m envious of that…but I’ve got five crumb snatchers I’ve got to deal with!”
There was laughter, as Monty looked down at his children, Lael, Faith, Janna, Elijah and Micah. He said they had been incredibly resilient the last week.
“I thank you all for taking the time to celebrate my wife today,” he said. “We didn’t lose her. When you lose something you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is. I’ll miss holding her hand. I’ll miss talking with my wife. My boss (Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan) probably couldn’t figure out why I always wanted to get out of the office. I just enjoyed being with my wife. I enjoyed being with my family, and most of the time we didn’t do anything We’d just be sitting around at the house, doing nothing. I’m going to miss that.”
“Let’s not lose sight of what is important. God is important. What Christ did on the cross is important. Let’s not lose sight of that family, who also lost someone they love.”
When I got up this morning, I played the video clip of Monty’s eulogy. I just sat there for the longest time reflecting on his message. When I put the video on my Facebook page I had comment after comment from people blown away by his forgiving heart. Here are some of the comments people wrote me:
“Charlie, this is amazing and very timely. Just minutes before viewing this I was reading my six minute reflections on the Weekday Gospels of Lent and today’s message revolves around forgiveness and letting go of anger. I’m the last guy who needs to get up on his religious soapbox, but I can’t deny His power. Monty’s five “crumb snatchers” are lucky to have him. We all are.” – David Mark
I am thankful I got to meet Monty just before his heart challenge. I never met Ingrid, but feel like I know her from hearing Monty talk about his love for her.
I have put the 7 minute eulogy below. Whatever you do today, take the time to watch it. I know some of you have work computers where you can’t watch video. If you can, later google Monty Williams eulogy and you can watch it at home. Have a blessed weekend everyone.
The remarkable eulogy from Monty Williams
Born in Oxford and educated at Ole Miss, Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who specializes in sharing the fascinating back story of Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. His 90 minute to 2-hour presentation is filled with patriotism, the American dream, and the power of team. It is delivered to corporate, educational and church audiences. He can be reached at email@example.com.