I lost a friend this weekend. Ivan Mukasa was part of my son's Jr. cycling team. He turned 18 last April and was someone that Joseph really looked up to. Ivan had a cruddy home life, beyond the usual "Dad and Son don't see eye-to-eye." Let's just say that I took Ivan on several out of town trips to various locations in TX and never met a parent at any race. Everything I've heard suggests that abuse was involved. Ivan was a very kind young man, soft spoken and polite, as well as fast. Rarely will an 18 year old choose to spend time with 12 year old boys, but Ivan never complained about bad jokes or loud voices on any of our long car rides. He always had a kind word for another racer no matter how they finished. He was also a State Champion. Ivan had finally prevailed against his past. He had graduated high school, gotten a green card, and received a cycling scholarship to MidWestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX. He was staying in the overflow housing at an apartment complex the weekend before classes started when he was found in the bottom of a swimming pool Friday night. Foul play is not being considered but there aren't any other details available. I still can't fathom that he's really gone. Like everyone else, I expect to see him riding around the corner any minute.
The grief is strong, not because his life was cut short. He lives a fullness with God now that the best parts of this life only point to. He has completed his final race and now stands a Champion. I pray that he will be carried swiftly to Paradise and that he will intercede for my family, especially Joseph. Ivan over the last few months had really come out of his shell and developed a role as a mentor for some of the younger riders. He mentioned to them that there were other riders who might think that they are too fast to ride with these kids, but that he thought that it was vitally important that he pass on all the experience that he could. I think that he just enjoyed the opportunity to be a kid. Joseph broke my heart in detailing the loss of Ivan. "Besides John, he's probably the only guy on the team who understands me." Tough to hear from a twelve year old. Kim cried as much or more than any of us.
Some things I will always remember about Ivan: his goofy Ugandan accent and big open laugh, the time he heard an announcer talking about primes and use the words "last lap," so he and another racer pushed hard for one more lap and finished the race two laps early, seeing him come around the final bend in perfect position for the State Championship RR last year and surprising everyone by getting fourth, seeing him cross the line 1st in this year's State Championship RR, leaving everyone behind with his powerful sprint. The next night, we went to grab some chow on the way home. We stopped at a Long John Silver's and Ivan noticed a Church's chicken next door. He met us at the Long John's with a ten piece box of chicken. Tom wouldn't let him eat fried chicken and he missed it so much. His consuming of that chicken was punctuated with long, this-is-really-good-food sighs. I will also remember seeing him about a week ago. We were just starting the Sunday afternoon ride and he came up behind me and placed his open palm on my back and stayed there for about twenty seconds. Then I looked over, he flashed his biggest smile, said "Hey Mr. Bull," and rode on ahead. Someday I'll catch up with you Ivan.