The game was played. The roar of the crowd firmly trapped in our short-term memory. We walked and reminisced the plays which secured the Fighting Irish their ninth victory and solidified their unbeaten streak.
We walked through the darkness of the campus, sidewalks illuminated by lights and the energy of the fans. The echoes from inside the stadium are now memory. As we walked we laughed because neither of us wanted to come to the realization that our time on the Notre Dame campus was coming to an end.
We instinctively walked toward the Grotto knowing each candle would be lit and those faithful would be saying a prayer of thanks for another Fighting Irish win. As I stood by the Grotto, tears running down my cheeks; I stood in silence, eyes closed feeling the warmth of the candles on my face. I knelt down, clasped my hands together and lowered my forehead until it touched my hands. I contemplated the victory, my families health and happiness, our presence here on the campus and all that is good and right with the world.
After what seemed like an eternity, we silently rose and made our way up the eight steps to the walkway which led us to the cathedral and the golden domed administration building. We rounded the bend in yet another sidewalk knowing our walk was coming to an end. As we approached the Hesburgh Library more commonly known as “Touchdown Jesus”, I looked to my left and right and couldn’t find Stephen. I stopped and heard Stephen’s voice saying as his hand patted the seat of the park bench which he was already occupying, “Come here dad.” I sat beside him. We both drank in the solitude of the moment. Stephen said, “I don’t want to leave.” I nodded my agreement. As we continued our vigil beside the reflecting pool, the silence was momentarily broken by the shouts of adolescents as they accompanied their peers and their parents back to their waiting car. A quick look to the left and it was clear the lights of the stadium were still brightly illuminating the playing surface and I thought what it must be like to stand outside the stadium and to hear the roar of the crowd as a game was being played. Was the sound as deafening as it was inside the stadium? We sat surrounded by the silence of the solitude before the realization that it was time to leave struck both of us like the big hammer on the carnival show of strength game. We walked the remainder of the distance to our car in silence; the skyline of the Notre Dame campus shrinking in the background.