When Mo asked me to write something for the upcoming UW game against Seattle U, where the new staff and team will recognize Mo and her courageous battle against ALS, I was simultaneously honored and nervous. There’s really no reason why Mo shouldn’t be able to write something like this herself, asking her legions of friends to attend Wednesday night’s contest, not simply because she will be recognized by the program where she dedicated four years of her life to perfecting her “flop”, but where she also took young freshmen under her wing and along with her 5 fellow seniors, taught me and three other wide-eyed 18 year olds what it meant to be a Husky. The hard work required every day, every practice, every drill. The dedication it takes to be great, both on and off the court. The commitment to support your teammates, challenge them and ultimately, stand by them, no matter what. I was nervous because I wanted to make sure the words I chose did justice to the person I have spent years admiring and looking up to, hoping someday to be like her when I grow up.
So really, when I think about it, there’s no reason Mo shouldn’t be writing this entry herself. She’s earned the right to ask her friends and family to join her on a night, long overdue, where the place she gave so much of herself is finally giving something back. A place where long after she hung up her Nikes and put away her sweatband, she continued to support new coaches and players as they discovered what it meant to be a Husky. But when Mo posed the question, she felt silly for asking and was worried that writing it herself might make her look “self-absorbed.” From the days where I longed for Mo to graduate, so I could finally wear #4 on my uniform, to today, where I long for a cure to an ugly and devastating disease, self-absorbed has never been a word I would use to describe her. Although the adjectives I would’ve picked at 18 might be slightly different than I pick at 29, they generally remain the same; Tenacious, caring, self-less, influential, dedicated, consummate teammate, thoughtful, humble in the face of adversity, thankful and genuine are only a start to the many that come to mind. Mo truly has shown us what it means to be a Husky, through and through.
As I get older and basketball continues to move further and further into the category of things I used to do, people still ask why I went to UW and if I liked it there. In the 11 or so years it’s been since I could call myself a Husky, the answer has never changed. And in those 11 years, it’s only become stronger. I went there because of the people I was going to be able to call my teammates and coaches. Maybe none of us realized it when we signed our name on that piece of paper or walked into the coach’s office, asking if there was a roster spot to try out for, the 15-20 people we would go through the next four years with would be, by and large, the same 15-20 people we will continue going through life with. And when one of those people needs our help, support or encouragement, the commitment we made all those years ago still binds us. When Mo sent a small group of us an email, shyly asking if we could make it to the game, it wasn’t long before numerous replies from friends and teammates all over the state came in, emphatically stating “yes!” we’ll be there.
The pride we all take in being Huskies pales in comparison to the pride we take in each other and the women we have become. Mo has been an inspiration and example for all of us throughout her 30-some years, constantly being mindful of others, doing so much for so many people and never turning her back on anyone, even as her body started to turn its back on her. I know we all enjoy coming together to show our support on one sunny, summer day in Seattle, where throngs of people who know Mo and countless others who don’t, take to the streets of Queen Anne to imbibe for a cause greater than all of us. But, on a fall day where the sun might be obscured by clouds and the beer might not be flowing until we hit up the Ram after the game (like we always do), I ask that you join me and my teammates in showing our support for Melissa, our teammate, our friend. Mo has not only defined what it means to be a Husky, but she has also redefined the meaning of family. She has consistently shown that family isn’t whose blood you share; it’s who you care about. So whether your athletic family bleeds Cougar crimson or Husky gold, on Wednesday night we all share in one thing: our collective love for Melissa Erickson.