Softball: UL's Glasco 'selfless' response after loss of daughter an inspiration
Cory Diaz, The Advertiser, Feb.9, 2019
How does a parent cope with the loss of a child?
There are myriad answers to the question — and at the same no answers — individual to the person enduring the pain of their loss. No one way is right or wrong.
Maybe the question that should be asked is how can a parent allow his grief to guide others to more comfort and strength in their darkest times?
Head Coach Gerry Glasco as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball take on Oregon. Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)
Louisiana softball coach Gerry Glasco isn’t entirely sure how he, Vickie, his wife of nearly 40 years, or his daughters Tara and Erin have made it through the past two weeks. The parents lost their youngest daughter, Geri Ann Glasco, a volunteer assistant coach at UL with her dad, Jan. 24 in a multi-vehicle accident along Interstate 10.
There’s no handbook on how to deal with burying your child. But the Glascos found something the day after their daughter’s funeral in Illinois that has served as the next best thing.
They found her Bible
How strong in her faith that Geri Ann was, Glasco said, has been one of the strongest coping mechanisms for he and his wife.
“She helped us a lot with her faith. It helps us knowing how strong she was in her faith,” he said. “If you’re going to lose a child, I’m telling you that makes a difference.”
Of all the markings in the Bible, the Glascos found notes from her last Bible study, and the message they read couldn’t have been more perfect to ease the pain of going on without their daughter.
Head coach Gerry Glasco talks to his team after having a shaky first inning in the championship game of the 2018 Sun Belt Conference softball tournament at Lamson Park on Saturday May 12, 2018. (Photo: Buddy Delahoussaye/Special to the Advertiser)
“That Bible is what she wrote stuff down and she sent messages to us. She even left her last Bible study. If she could’ve written a hand-written message to me and my wife, it would’ve been what she wrote,” Glasco said.
“It was just an entry that she made and she didn’t know it was going to be the last thing she wrote to us. We came home from the funeral and there it was. All those things she left us and left us in a good place if we have to lose our daughter.
“It was about being selfless. When you want to be what God wants you to be, sometimes you can’t be what you want to be. And you have to give up something you want for what God wants. It was really good and it was really personal.”
'It's not human strength through those days'
Through the tragedy, the Louisiana softball head coach has continued to go to work. Because he’s felt like it’s his responsibility and that he owes his players, a strong softball and Lafayette community that has been there for his family.
“Because it’s my job and I just love these girls,” said Glasco after UL’s season-opening victory against Fordham at Lamson Park on Thursday night. “They’re really special kids.
“And I owe it to the community. Our community has backed my family 100 percent and I owe everything I can give them back. And that’s my job, that’s what I can do, I can coach. We got to get through it and we’re just going to keep fighting and do the best we can do.”
Thinking of someone else before himself. That’s the light Glasco has shined through the devastation of losing his daughter, “G.” Geri Ann inherited that characteristic from her dad and mother, evident by the countless and overwhelming outpouring of supportive messages on all of families’ social media.
Cathy Semeria doesn’t personally know the Glascos. But when she heard of Geri Ann’s tragic passing, she felt compelled to reach, as she lost her daughter Christina “Tini” Semeria on April 27, 2016, in a car accident.
“For somebody that’s watching from the outside and knows what’s it like on the inside, the only way to find strength is through faith and community,” said Semeria, who has formed a group of moms who have lost children in her hometown of Canton, Georgia.
“If you don’t have that, I don’t know how you get through it. That’s my experience I can share. In the beginning days, you’re walking through a lot of shock. Then you look back and think, 'How did I have strength to do that?' It’s not human strength through those days.”
Friends, family and fans leave ballons outside of Lamson Park as a memorial to Geri Ann Glasco. Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)
The first friend Kaitlyn Schutt made when her family moved to Johnston City, Illinois, several years ago was Geri Ann. Soon after, Gerry became her softball coach and the families became connected.
One thing Kaitlyn’s mother Mikilyn noticed right away about the Glascos was their positivity.
“They’re courageous and have been a strong family all the time,” Mikilyn Schutt said. “They raised Geri Ann to be that way. They never meet a stranger and they always see the good in everything. They make the most out of any situation. In time like this, of course they’re mourning and heartbroken, but they turn around to raise money for other young ladies to help get a softball world like Geri Ann. They’re always positive, regardless of the situation.
“At the funeral, that’s what Gerry was saying, that they were thankful for every day they were given with Geri Ann. I would have been like, ‘I was robbed, my daughter was only 24. He turned it around. That’s the type of positive people they are, and that’s who Geri Ann was. She made such a positive impact on such many people’s lives than they could ever imagine.”
The day after the accident, Glasco took the time to go on social media and thank those who had reached out to offer the condolences and support.
Louisiana Tech softball coach Mark Montgomery has no idea how his fellow coach did it.
“As a father of three daughters, I can’t fathom what he’s going through. You talk about what’s your greatest fear in life, that’s probably it,” Montgomery said. “No one knows the toll being paid behind closed doors when it’s just Gerry and his wife, Vickie. We don’t see that and I can’t fathom it.
“For him and his wife to publicly address every single sympathizer, I don’t think I’d be able to do that. I think how he’s been able to handle it, I think many would fail. This has brought down the greatest of men. He’s one in a 1,000. The whole softball program, they’re all dealing with losing Geri Ann. It just goes to show his resolve and strength of character.”
'It hurts. And it will for a while'
Through Semeria’s tragedy, what she discovered was most important was to help guide future parents through the difficulty of losing their children. And that’s why she reached out to the Glascos.
“My belief is we’re made to serve, be that spark in the dark and help other people. In that journey of brokenness, in your pain is your greatest ministry, and for other parents that lost a child,” Semeria said. “You can embrace that. It’s hard, but the joy and sorrow will never be separated again. In those moments of reaching out to other people, it gives you more strength to deal with it.”
It’s been inspiring for the Ragin’ Cajun softball team to witness, first-hand, how gracious and strong their head coach has been through something so heartbreaking.
“Amazing. He is so tough,” UL sophomore centerfielder Raina O’Neal said Thursday. “He tells us that we’re tough all the time. But we’re looking at him, he’s just taking everything so well. It’s amazing to have a coach like that to follow.”
Louisiana sophomore centerfielder Raina O'Neal reflects on how starting the season can help team heal from Geri Ann Glasco tragedy. Cory Diaz, email@example.com
It’s painful. It hurts. Pulling up to Lamson Park feels different now.
But for now, Glasco’s got daughters, his wife, players, assistant coaches, among others that need him. He’s got a responsibility to help guide them through their struggles. For Gerry, Vickie, Erin and Tara, that’s how they’re answering the "How are you coping?" question.
“That’s my baby. She was my youngest girl. She was a good ballplayer. We connected here at the ballpark. It’s been tough, really tough,” Glasco said. “I don’t know, 1 to 10 what it is, but I know it hurts. When I wake up in the morning, it hurts. And it will for a while.
“But I’ve got to bow my neck and be strong and remember I’ve got responsibilities to these kids. I’ve got two other daughters at home, I’ve got a lovely wife that’s had my back for 39 of the last 60 years. I owe it to my wife and kids, I’m going to keep going and fight through it the best I can.”