From left, Steve, Tyler, Lisa, Ryan and Rachel Gott hold the championship trophy for the lacrosse tournament in honor of Adam, the son of Steve and Lisa who died in a motorbike accident last summer. The tournament was held at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood July 13 and 14. Photo by Lori Wietecki / Special to The Catholic Spirit
A replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà sits upon the mantle in the home of my friends, Steve and Lisa Gott. It has been there for years. The sculpture depicts Mary with her head tilted and eyes closed in prayerful mourning, cradling her beloved son after he was crucified.
The prophets foretold Jesus’ death, so Mary must have been prepared a little, but no matter the circumstances, losing a child must be the most terrible thing in the world. The Pietà on the Gotts’ mantle now holds significant meaning for them because they’ve experienced Mary’s pain firsthand.
Every parent’s fear
During the month of June last year, Steve and Lisa were happily spending their days with their son Adam and his three siblings: Tyler, Ryan and Rachel. Adam, a graduate of Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, had moved out of Tommie Hall at St. John’s University and into his old bedroom at their home in Stillwater. He had just wrapped up his freshman year and was looking forward to playing lacrosse and working his summer job as a painter for their friends’ company, Fresh Paint.
On the last day of June, Steve took his sons Ryan, who was 22, and Adam, 19, golfing and then to a car show. “When we got home, Adam packed a bag and headed to a family friend’s cabin. It was the last time I talked to him,” said Steve.
After 5:30 Mass that evening at their parish, St. Michael in Stillwater, the Gotts received the type of phone call that every parent fears. It was one of Adam’s buddies. “Adam had an accident,” the young man cried. Steve and Lisa drove two hours to the hospital in Sandstone. The rosary was recited the whole way. They phoned a nurse there who told them, “Doctors are having difficulty finding a pulse.”
When they got to the emergency room’s parking lot, they saw their family friends outside. “Is he alive?” the hopeful parents asked.
Lisa told me through tears that when they heard the words “No,” she sank to her knees. Adam’s college friend, who also had played lacrosse with him at Hill-Murray, picked the mourning mother up and brought both parents into the hospital to see their son.
This young man had been with Adam a few hours earlier riding a motorbike. Adam hit a tree when it was his turn. Even though he was wearing a helmet, he had suffered a hard blow to the head. His buddy bravely administered CPR while waiting for help, but Adam died on impact.
Now when I go to the Gott’s home and examine the Pietà, I also see a representation of Lisa and Steve holding Adam. I think of a story Lisa told me the day after his accident:
“When I was getting ready to view Adam’s body at the funeral home, I prayed for the Blessed Mother’s intercession. I said, ‘Mary, help me get through this.’ As I cradled Adam and had my face in his hair, I begged Mary once again to help me. As I was kneeling beside him, my body began to tingle and I felt lifted or supported. . . and then I saw Adam with Mary and I knew he was OK.”
Adam’s parents, who were chairs for the Catholic Services Appeal in 2009 and 2010, are thankful he had a K-12 Catholic education, plus one year to learn more about his religion at St. John’s. They believe the values and character traits that are developed in a Catholic environment are priceless. Knowing that their child had a strong faith and that he died with the graces of a good relationship with God has given them comfort.
Something else that gives Steve great comfort is the memories he stows in his heart of the medical mission trip to Peru he took with Adam a few years ago. At this clinic in South America, Adam worked with his father, who is an anesthesiologist.The young man mostly assisted with the Peruvian children before and after their surgeries. He always had a gift with kids and a smile that captivated people. He used these talents in everything, from helping the needy to coaching during mini youth camps at Hill-Murray even after he graduated.
For his myriad volunteer activities, Adam was awarded a Gold Level Service Award from Hill-Murray when he was a student.
After the accident, his employers at Fresh Paint established the Adam Gott Scholarship at Hill-Murray, which awards a junior or senior $1,000 for tuition. They wanted to honor Adam because he exemplified the ideals of a Hill-Murray student through his dedication to academics while maintaining high levels of athleticism and service to the community. Those who knew Adam are excited about this scholarship because, in his short 19 years, he was an ambitious leader who centered his life on his Christian faith.
Adam was an altar server through high school. In the funeral homily, Father Michael Miller said, “When I first became pastor at St. Michael’s, one of the Dominican sisters at St. Croix Catholic told me to keep an eye out for Adam Gott because he was a special kid who loved his Catholic faith.”
The night before he died, Adam’s friends were teasing him because of a decision he had to make. He told them, “God will decide what is supposed to happen because he decides everything in my life.” His mother said that her son trusted in the Lord and had a good-natured contentment because he knew life wasn’t centered on himself; life was about God’s will.
A day after Adam’s death, friends gathered in the chapel at Hill-Murray. It was overflowing with people who, in a time of shock and sadness, chose to be in a holy place that reminded them of their friend.
That same chapel was filled once again on July 13. The first annual Gott to Lax tournament was held on the weekend of July 13 and 14 at Hill-Murray, with Mass celebrated during the event. This tournament was the brainchild of Adam’s high school coaches, Greg and Kristy Visich, who also served as tournament directors.
They were happy to do something in Adam’s memory because their family is better for having known him. “Our children grew up with Adam as a strong role model within the Catholic faith, in his service to the community, and simply in his daily demonstration of treating people with respect and kindness” they said.
They also said that Adam, who played the position of attack, was always a natural leader and earned the designation of captain at both the JV and varsity level. A trophy emblazoned with Adam’s silhouette was presented by the Gotts to the tournament champions from Prior Lake on July 14.
Nine high school boys’ teams participated, with more teams put on a waiting list. Hundreds of people attended, and it is estimated that the event raised $20,000. Proceeds benefit the newly established Adam Gott Collegiate Club Lacrosse Player Fee Scholarship Fund.
The vast majority of high school lacrosse players continue at the college club level and the cost to participate in these programs ranges from $500 to $3,000 per academic year. Many students simply can’t afford the added expense, and this scholarship will help. For more information visit http://www.penguinlacrosse.com.
Among the 100 volunteers at the event was Adam’s father, who served as the medical representative. “Adam was a very frugal accounting major,” Steve said. “After he passed away, we found a spreadsheet on his computer that organized his spending. He’d be happy to know that there’s funding now available to help college students.”
Lisa told me after it ended, “If there was a way that Adam saw this tournament, he’d have been so thrilled to see everyone having so much fun. It was an unbelievable weekend.”