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‘In Lieu of Flowers, Go to a Cubs Game’: How Chicago Cubs Fandom Persists Beyond the Grave

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With the Chicago Cubs on the brink of their first World Series title in 108 years, the team’s many followers are bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase die-hard fan.

From planting pennants and flags at grave sites to texting numbers that have long been reassigned, Cubs fans are making sure the devoted fans in their lives who didn’t live to see Tuesday’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians aren’t completely left out of the celebration.

As the Cubs prepared to face off in their first playoff game against the San Francisco Giants, Dan Yara texted his grandpa.

“Grandpa, watch over the Cubs tonight,” he wrote, according to the Chicago Sun Times. “They can break the streak this year, they just need help.”

“I think you have the wrong number,” Sandra Sosin, who was assigned the cell number after Yara’s grandpa died four years ago, replied.

He texted the number again three days later. “Grandpa we need you tonight,” he wrote. “If they win tonight I think they can get to the World Series.”

Yara, a college student, admitted that trying to send texts to beyond the grave may sound odd to some people, but it’s the best he can do to feel like he’s sharing this experience with the man who taught him to love the Cubs.

When Sosin learned why she was receiving these text messages, she immediately understood. The suburban mom developed her love for the team while watching games with her grandpa, too.

“When I was a little girl, we’d watch Cubs games together,” she told the paper. “My grandfather had a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body and he couldn’t talk really. The only thing I could understand is when he’d say ‘Holy Cow!’ like Harry Caray.”

For many other members of Cubs Nation, just joining in the fun of watching the series at all feels like a way of paying tribute.

Sharon Thompson told the Associated Press that watching the Cubs’ postseason performance has helped her and her family process the grief of losing her husband, George Thompson, who died on June 1.

“We just feel like the only way we can get through this emotionally is by saying he is here with us spiritually, enjoying this so much,” Thompson said.

The relatives of season-ticket holder Carol Flanagan reported that after her death in April, no one in the family could bring themselves to use the seats she held for decades.

”You want to say, `Oh, she’s probably happy up there,’ but I think she’d be (angry),” Flanagan’s sister, Peggy Kucia, said. ”She’d be saying, `I sat here (at Wrigley) for 30 years and nobody would even come to the game with me. And now it happens?”’

But when Kucia’s brother and nephew mustered up the strength to attend a game without her, they experienced a remarkable sign that Flanagan was happy to have them there.

”The first game they go to and a Cub hitter sent a ball into my nephew’s lap,” Kucia said. ”Hand to God. My brother started crying, my nephew started crying.”

Cubs fans from all walks of life have proven time and again that dedication is as good a legacy as any. Just ask Mary E. Fickenscher, whose family passed along the following request to mourners after her death in June: “In lieu of flowers, go to a Cubs game and raise your glass in memory of Mary.”