Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wishing Haslem Peace in Mourning (Updated)

For those of you who pray, please send one out for Heat forward Udonis Haslem and his family. Haslem

For those of you who don't pray, now might be as good a time as ever to start.

Haslem, the Heat's heart and soul anchor, is in mourning after losing his mother, Debra, this morning to a lengthy battle with cancer. Haslem has played the past two seasons with the burden of coping with his mother's illness and the small victories and setbacks that came along with it.

Haslem on Monday issued a statement in response to his mother's passing. He also thanked many of you for the support.

"I am deeply saddened by the death of my mother, Debra, who passed away after a long battle with cancer," Haslem said Monday. "My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time."

It was clear where Haslem gained his strength, toughness and stubbornness from. All you had to do was ask him how his mother was doing. Even though they had some rough times during his upbringing, Haslem was devoted and loyal to his mother.

He first disclosed her diagnosis two seasons ago during the 2007-08 season - a time when the Heat was dealing with the devastation of what would turn into a 15-win season. Haslem was always able to keep everything in perspective, despite everything that went wrong on the court.

He would often leave practices and games the past two years and head directly to the hospital, or wherever his mother's bedside was at that particular time. She would tell him to stop worrying, that she would be fine. Hard-headed Udonis would never listen.

His disobedience and devotion to help his mother get through the highs and lows was a thing of painful beauty. I lost my Grandmother, who played a large role in raising me in Washington D.C., right around the same time Haslem was learning to cope with his mother's battle.

At last check late last season, Haslem had said his mother was looking into seeking alternative forms of HaslemParty treatment after another setback. She fought a strong, proud, dignified fight from every indication. She got to see  how much the Heat thought of her son when they threw a surprise birthday party for him last month going into free agency. Debra even got to see her son re-commit to the Heat in free agency, and was at peace with his decision to remain in his hometown to care for his family and close friends.

On Monday, Heat president Pat Riley also issued a statement through the team. "The Miami Heat send our heartfelt condolences and sypathies to Udonis Haslem and his family," Riley said. "We were saddened to hear that his mother, Debra, has passed. Udonis is the heart and soul of this team, and we join him in mourning his loss."

Haslem, 30, has seen so much pain and loss in his young adult life that he almost carries a numbness in his demeanor. He's tried to ignore pain on and off the court. That's what makes him, well, him, to a great degree. But there's no hiding this. There's only persevering through it - again, unfortunately. One of Haslem's older brothers, Samual Wooten, lost a battle with cancer at age 36 in 1999.

UD is tough, hard-nosed and a bit rough around the edges. But he's really one of the good guys underneath that gruff exterior. He's one of the few guys in that locker room who opens himself up through all of this to expose the person beyond the player.

So again, if you pray, don't forget to include Haslem and his family in one of them today.

And if you don't, just offer UD peace and blessings in his journey as he deals with his loss.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)



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