Editor’s note: On Aug. 22, 2017, Utah Jazz forward Jae Crowder lost his mother, Helen Thompson, to cancer on the same night he learned he was being traded from Boston to Cleveland. The pain of losing her still affects him. He hopes that by sharing his grief, it can help others cope with personal tragedy. The following letter was composed by Deseret News sports writer Eric Woodyard from an interview with Crowder.
Having the feeling of doing no wrong in your eyes.
Someone I can talk to no matter what and just feeling an unconditional love that I will likely never get again.
This is what I think about when I think of you.
It’s still tough for me to get into the day you left. I’d rather not go there.
August 22, 2017, is still the worst day of my life as I watched you take your last breath, but I miss you and have been trying my best to keep it together for you and our family. It gets hard, and I want you to know I will never give up trying to fill your spot as head of our family.
I know, 100 percent, in my heart that you would want me to be doing this, playing basketball, and you would be supporting me. So, for the rest of my career, I definitely play for you.
I can still hear your voice, telling me, ‘Son, just play hard and have fun with it.’ That’s why each time I enter a game, I honor the Lord first then you of course with a bump on my chest then a glimpse to the sky.
I honor you and speak to you, every time I touch the floor. I just want to make you proud and make sure I play hard, whether the game is going good or bad. Sometimes I envision you at the Utah Jazz games all dressed up. You would be so into it.
I know for all big games you would find a way to be there. If we have a three-game homestand or four-game homestand, you would be standing there. You would definitely find a way to come in town for those games because you did that ever since I came into the NBA. Even the big games in college you always showed up. You were my No. 1 fan.
I still talk to you and do the things that I did when you were here just for my sanity and for my well-being. Forever, I’ll always be the youngest of your five kids. I’m still your baby boy. I always look at myself as that, even though I’m the man of the family now.
You could be demanding and outgoing and your fashion was always on point — that’s probably where I get it from. You would do whatever it takes to see the family happy and you sacrificed a lot, and that’s what I want to take from you is sacrificing. Even though it might not be beneficial to me or make me happy at the time, as long as it makes other people happy, I’m down with it.
Maturity is what I’ve learned the most since you’ve been gone. I didn’t think I could mature as much as I have. I thought I was pretty mature at the time but your loss has really made me mature as a man, as a father, a friend, as a brother, and it made me just mature in a way I didn’t think I could do.
Last year I didn’t know how to handle it so I had to find a way, and I think that’s another level that I had to grow.
After the playoffs last year is when I really just sat back and took time away from everything to think. I stepped away from basketball and just tried to be with the family as much as possible and tried to think as clearly as possible.
So probably that first few weeks when I was done playing basketball after the playoffs, I could just think clear and be free with it. I think at that time is when I started to evolve into relocating my mind and my body.
In a sense, it’s like it’s a dream come true with the whole aspect of me returning to Utah, where Dad once played. Your loss has made me closer to him, too. We talk now more than ever.5 comments on this story
I thought I was talking to him every day, but I’m talking to him more in detail about different things, whether it’s about basketball or just about life. I feel like it has made our relationship closer and made our bond closer. He’s someone I depend on for sure. I trusted him before you passed away but you were that person I talked to about every and any thing so now I’ve shifted that to him. So just having someone like him in my corner has really helped with the whole process.
I asked him this recently, I said, ‘Do I make you proud?’ and hearing him explain to me how and why I make him proud was the feeling that a kid lives for, to make your parents proud.
I can honestly say, I think you were proud of me and the man I was becoming, but hearing that from my dad, with all the stuff I’ve been through, it was a great feeling.
So as I sign off for now, just know that your young king thinks about you every day, and I miss you like crazy.