I say this frequently, as much a self-reminder as an encouragement to others. But then something comes along and jars you into a reminder of just how fully and finally true that is.

This was the latest reminder for me, a story that got no major coverage and frankly didn’t percolate to a higher level of recognition than a weekend side note in a news cycle filled with Libya, Charlie Sheen and congressional battles.

The score was tied. The game was in overtime. The mood, electric.

Number 35 came charging up to the net and hit a last-moment winning layup for his undefeated Fennville High School Blackhawks to end the regular season Thursday night with a perfect 20 wins.

The other players hoisted their star, 16-year-old Wes Leonard, on their shoulders. The screaming crowd charged the court to hug him. It was the biggest moment in memory for the tiny Michigan town of Fennville.

And then it all turned to black.

Silence fell under the harsh glare of the florescent lights. Leonard lay still on the court, pale in his school colors. His family and coaches surrounded him. He wasn’t breathing, his friend Arista Sauceda recalled. His heart had stopped cold.

What a terrible story. But here’s what struck me most:

As news of Leonard’s death spread, a small community on the banks of Lake Michigan convulsed in shock. A moment of enormous school pride was reduced to irrelevance, a moment of joy turned into the opposite.

It’s a stunning reminder of ultimately what is most important, and in the end…and in a heartbeat…what is not.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....