Life hit hard this week as we watched loved ones offer sincere but unexpected farewells to a fallen Santaquin police officer and a young bull rider from Elk Ridge. You didn’t need to know them — to know them. In so many ways, they were just like the rest of us — both busy living their lives.

Fifty-year-old Sgt. Bill Hooser started his shift with no doubt that he would finish it. And 19-year-old cowboy Tait Anderson climbed onto the back of a bull expecting to complete his ride. Neither ending went the way all the previous endings had gone — and now they are gone too.

Those who were fortunate to know Bill and Tait will never forget them. For those of us who didn’t, there is a lesson in their passing that commands attention — one day, unexpected or not, the bells will toll for us, too.

During the spring of 1998, our father wasn’t feeling well. He went home from work to lay down during the lunch break and never made it back. The cancer moved quickly, and he died six weeks later. As my brothers and I went to clean out his office, we found a “to-do” list and a sack lunch on his desk. The room looked as if he was going to walk through the door at any moment. So, we sat down and waited. As we did, our perspective of life began to change.

No need to raise your hand, but how many of us have sat at a funeral service feeling like we are going to live forever? It’s the irony of all ironies because no one does. Likewise, how many have been distracted during a service by our lengthy to-do list that is waiting at the door? If that hasn’t happened to you, check your pulse.

BYU and UMass staged a football game on Nov. 23, 2019. After anchoring the pregame show on BYUtv, I slipped out to attend the funeral of a dear friend. As the service went on, and knowing that I was going to host the postgame show, my mind switched back and forth from the funeral to the game. Facing the congregation made it impossible to check my phone for a score, so I sat and wondered — while I mourned with a family who had lost their dad.

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Why did I do that? Am I that shallow (don’t answer)? It’s just a game. It’s just a job. Why do we mix and match life-and-death things with stuff that isn’t as important or as lasting? When the service ended, I raced back to the studio, listening to Greg Wrubell’s play-by-play on the radio. As it turned out, there was plenty of time to grasp the main events of the game and complete my work assignment. Life 1, Sports 0.

Years earlier, on Nov. 25, 2006, I raced down I-15 in Las Vegas to our Channel 8 studios where I worked as a sports anchor. I was hoping to catch the final minutes of the BYU-Utah game. A church assignment that morning had consumed the first three quarters. Somewhere between Sahara and Flamingo, John Beck hit Jonny Harline for the game-winning touchdown, and I missed it. Life 2, Sports 0.

Even earlier, on Dec. 23, 1983, as a teenager, I spent the Holiday Bowl making fruit baskets in the back of the produce section at a grocery store. Steve Young did it all that night. He ran for a touchdown. He threw for a touchdown and with seconds remaining, he caught the winning touchdown pass from Eddie Stinnett to beat Missouri 21-17. I made fruit baskets through the whole thing, only to find out the next morning, I was scheduled to be off the clock in time to watch the game at home. Life 3, Sports 0.

Life happens first. It must. It’s the meat and potatoes. Sports is like French fries or a milkshake that adds flavor to the experience. My wife prefers fish over meat and doesn’t care for sports — but she will wear a Cubs hat on occasion (which gives me hope). While sports can greatly enhance our earthly experience, sometimes it takes hard things in life to reboot, realign and even tweak our perspective.

Reality is that a Game 7 is not really “do or die.” Losing to a rival is not the “end of the world” and an overtime outcome does not bring “sudden death.” Reality is also the good fortune of attending a Game 7 or watching two rivals battle that may or may not end in overtime.

Hockey is a good example. After battling like crazy in a best-of-seven series, once the last second ticks away, the teams line up, lower their defenses and shake hands. We can do more of that, too.

None of us know how long we will live, but we all know that we can live a little better. We can be a little kinder, and when it comes to the things that matter most, we can put those first and keep them there.

Bill and Tait are so much more than elements of a sports story. They are loved by those who knew them and will be deeply missed. For those of us who didn’t know them, they are sincere reminders of how precious life is and how quickly things can change. Most importantly, even as strangers, those two, along with all of those who have gone on before, can help us tweak the way we think.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) and his teammates shake hands with New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey, front right, and his teammates after Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Friday, June 25, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa won the final game 1-0. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) and his teammates shake hands with New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey, front right, and his teammates after Game 7 of an NHL Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Friday, June 25, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa won the final game 1-0. | Chris O'Meara, Associated Press