Closing 2015

Mariano Rivera

New York Yankees closing pitcher Mariano Rivera

My side of the family was really into sports. My late mother, unlike most women who enjoy watching dramas, enjoyed all sports regardless of genre. Volleyball, basketball, she knew all the various franchise players’ names by heart, and even knew some of the NBA players’ names. When the national football team would play an away game outside the country she would become flush as if she was waiting for her lover, and she’d watch the game through the night. When the Olympic Games or the Asian Games were on, it was like receiving a feast. I wonder if she was fond of the lively and intense world of competition. But quite unlike her daughter, I cannot sit through an entire match. My heart pounds like it will burst, and my head aches. The suspense becomes unbearable, and when our team comes to the fork between victory and defeat, I’d rather do something else and celebrate during the highlights after the game.

After getting married I discovered that my husband was a baseball fan. He loves it above any other sports. I don’t have a sport that I love, but I don’t have a sport that I hate. I don’t seek out games to follow, and if someone happens to be watching one, I might sort of watch. My late brother too was a baseball fan, so I learned some of this over his shoulders as children – enough to talk baseball with my husband when he’s bored. December, the final month! To think that the word “closing pitcher” would come up thinking about the year’s finish, I really must have had quite a bit of influence from sports over the years.

In baseball you have to hit well, but it’s a game where you have to first throw well. Although it’s difficult to say which is more important, in my personal opinion, the scale tips in favor of the pitcher. But the real beauty of baseball… even though strikeouts have their careful suspense, casual fans like myself get the kick from watching the home run glides through the air with the delightful crack of the bat. And how about the grand-slam at the bottom of the ninth! Casual fans like I tend to be all about jackpots and knockouts. But when the closing pitcher comes out, that’s when the casual fans’ hearts are in their mouths. I begin to empathize with all the time that he has spent in the bullpen playing the game vicariously, preparing for this moment, and I can hear my heart beat so loud it drowns out the crowd in the stadium.

The charm of closing pitchers is their heart of steel and tremendous focus. In the face of danger, they do not lose their cool, and contends with the best pitch they can throw. They are probably an experienced veteran who can adapt to various scenarios. When it gets to this point, regardless of whose team the pitcher is on, I am cheering for his team. During that moment it seems like there is no player greater and more resolute than the closing pitcher. If he records a save, he is my hero.

If I were to think of someone who put a good finish to life, the author of “The Beautiful Finish”, Monk Beop Jong comes to mind. Among many ideas he wrote about concerning this ‘finish,’ the ones that touched me is that of ‘gratitude’ and ‘liberation.’ “The Beautiful Finish is grateful for life. It understands that there was no other path than the path I’ve traveled, and affirms that it has helped me grow. It is understanding the significance of every process and all the things that has happened to you, and giving thanks to life, this existence, which has given me a chance to grow.”, he spoke of a life giving thanks with an affirming mind. “The Beautiful Finish is Emptying. It is discarding the obsession with Filling and approaching emptiness. Thus the Beautiful Finish is Emptying, and one allows them to be filled with emptiness.”

There are even people that have finished a saint from a sinner with a few well-timed words – the criminal who was on one of the other crosses when Jesus was crucified. “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23: 39-43). What is said in the moments before death is probably not too different from the kind of life that they’ve led. I think this sinner knew what his sins were, as well as who Jesus was.

At the time, Jesus was probably someone who was considered to have met the worst of endings, rather than having a good one. As a person he died a horrific death by crucifixion, leaving his mother in mourning. But that wasn’t the end for Jesus; because with the passage of time, history picked up on what message his death was trying to send.

This December, the thought of the year winding down, I feel like I don’t have anything to wrap up. Although there are many things that have already been done and been dealt with, most of them are something I am unable to resolve. I would throw a good one like the closing pitchers in baseball, but this amateur would probably just end up breaking someone’s window trying to emulate the pros. The only thing I can do is clearing out my mind, but I’m not confident that I’ll be good at it. Like the words of monk Beop Jong, I just empty out the scattered, and dirty mind. If I can fill that empty space with the love Jesus showed when he died on the cross, I don’t think there could be a cleaner finish.

Marie Hong / Editor-in-Chief