'You have to live': A week for perspective as Clemson wraps arms around Bresee

'You have to live': A week for perspective as Clemson wraps arms around Bresee


'You have to live': A week for perspective as Clemson wraps arms around Bresee


Now more than ever, Dabo Swinney is hopeful that football will be a refuge for Bryan Bresee.

Because the heart of Clemson’s star defensive tackle is heavy this week.

On Tuesday, with a large contingent of coaches and teammates by his side, Bresee laid his sister, Ella, to rest during her funeral in Maryland. Following a recent setback in her 18-month battle with brain cancer, Ella passed away before the Tigers’ game against Louisiana Tech last week. She was 15 years old.

Those who attended the funeral, including Swinney, flew back to Clemson later in the day so the Tigers could get a practice in last night. Bresee is expected to be back in the lineup when Clemson travels to No. 21 Wake Forest on Saturday. 

As for how Bresee is holding up, Swinney said as well as could be expected.

“Yesterday was a tough, long day for sure, and he’s been through a lot,” Swinney said. “It’s been a long journey kind of culminating with the Furman game and then long stays at the hospital all day, every day. The emotions of that and the closure that comes with it yesterday, it’ll be something he’ll deal with for the rest of his life for sure. But he’s got a good support group. He’s got an amazing family. I think Ella, just her words and her joy, hopefully they can all take some peace in that, but we’ll certainly keep our arms around him.”

While there’s been plenty of focus on the Tigers’ preparations for a marquee ACC tilt, it’s also been a week of heavy conversations for Swinney and his players as well as a reset on the proper perspective toward life, something Ella not only provided with her fight but also in a letter she wrote before her death.

“She talked about how cancer changed her,” Swinney said, referencing the contents of the letter. “This is a 15-year-old girl, and she’s like, ‘Cancer has changed me.’ And then she just goes on and she’s basically telling everybody don’t hold grudges. Love the sports you get to play. She talked about your family and telling the people you love that you love them It was just awesome.

“I think in moments like this, as tragic as they are, we all know that time is coming for all of us at some point. It’s one of those things you kind of block out, but you have to live. You have to live each day, and you have to live it to the fullest. And I think to do that, you have to love, you have to forgive and, as Ella said, don’t hold grudges and have a true appreciation for today. That’s all we’ve got. None of us are promised tomorrow. 

Clemson’s football program got another somber reminder of that recently. Swinney shared that the mother of one of the team’s graduate assistants passed away over the weekend after being involved in a car wreck. 

“These are opportunities for everybody – young and old – to truly gain perspective on what’s important, how we should live our life, how we should treat people and how we should process things,” Swinney said. “Just try to find joy in the journey and find joy in every moment that comes our way because we can’t do anything about yesterday. There’s no hope for that, and we’re not promised tomorrow.

“Just win the day. Because if we all knew this was our last day, how would we live? You’d probably call somebody and tell them you love them, so if we tried to live that way, it makes the whole world a better place. And I think Ella exemplified that right in the midst of the fight of her life.”

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