“Never say can’t!” Ask anybody who played youth sports in our area from about 1992 to 2006 if they remember the coach who relentlessly instilled these three words into their heads. I can almost guarantee you will hear a unanimous chorus: Brian Paul!
This was more than just a motto for Brian. It was an entire way of life for him, both on and off the field. Brian’s players learned very quickly they were absolutely not permitted to say “I can’t” around him. Even as Brian battled the cancer that would eventually take him from us, he made it clear to the medical staff he would not tolerate use of the word “can’t” in his presence.
Brian was a very busy guy but always had time for others. Every time I turned around, it seemed he was doing something for my family. I recall the day our oldest daughter Amber was injured while totaling her car. First, Brian helped us comfort Amber at the scene before he towed her car for us. Then, while we continued attending to Amber, Brian picked up our youngest daughter Bethany who was sick at school and took her to his home for several hours, where he and his family nursed her until we showed up.
I have so many memories of Brian. Man, he was strong as an ox! I remember helping him lift the wooden dugout benches on and off his truck when we moved them from the old girls’ softball field at the former Barboursville Elementary to the new one at Barboursville Park. I fancied myself fairly strong, but he made it look so effortless that I was sure he gave me the heavy end! I jokingly told him I felt like saying, “I can’t do this,” but that I knew lifting this behemoth weight was much easier than hearing, yet again, his “Never say can’t” speech. He laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad it’s finally sinking in!”
One day Brian, my wife Amy and I were at the park stocking the concession stand. We were the only people at the fields that day. Amy is extremely scared of bees. One got under her shirt and she ran frantically from the building, stripping off her outer shirt and revealing a T-shirt underneath (Amy is always cold, even in the summer). A couple days later, we ran into Brian. He said, “Did you hear about Eustace having to go to the hospital?” (Eustace was an older gentleman who worked for the city and was frequently at the park mowing the fields or whatever else needed done). We said, “No, what happened to him?” Brian replied, tongue firmly in cheek, “You’re not going to believe this! Eustace said he was at the park the other day and some woman came running out of the concession stand and tore her shirt off. It was more than he could handle and he had a heart attack!”
But my most lasting memory is of a packed church, including three pews filled with weeping, heartbroken softball girls on the day of his funeral. So many lives touched…
Even in death, Brian continues to touch lives. He fought tirelessly to have the cable barrier installed locally on Interstate 64 to prevent crossover head-on collisions, which to this day bears his name. Countless lives have been saved by his efforts. I can only imagine the lectures Brian must have given at every step along the way whenever someone said something “can’t” be done. A few years after Brian died, his widow Cathy was working at her job in a local hospital and was informed a lady was asking to speak with her. The woman told Cathy she and her daughter had a wreck on I-64 that morning and had spent most of the day in the Emergency Room, where the doctors determined their lives were most likely saved by the cable barrier. They told her one of their coworkers was the wife of the man who was instrumental in having it installed. This eternally grateful woman just wanted to stop by to give Cathy a hug and let her know words could not express how much she appreciated what Brian had done for her family.
Just think if Brian had gotten tired of all the bureaucratic red tape and thrown up his hands and said, “I can’t.” Thank you, Brian, for living what you preached!
As Christians, there are times we underestimate or doubt God’s power and surrender before giving Him a chance to work in our lives. For our lives in general, but especially for our spiritual lives, we should adopt the mantra of Brian Paul: “Never say can’t!”
“For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).