Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day Eight: The Long Arm of Death

Although there is much about which I would like to write (including my first Oxford formal hall and my tour of the Bodleian yesterday), what has weighed most heavily on my mind are the events which occurred on Thursday of last week: the student suicide.

I had several experiences yesterday which impressed me with how far-reaching the love and concern for one individual stretch.  I first, after hearing the name of my college, was asked about it by a fellow US History MSt (the unique abbreviation for a certain kind of masters here) student.  She said she found it strange that the BBC had reported on it, and yet the University had as yet made no announcements generally.  Toby, dubbed the "Harry Potter kid" because he sold his first edition Harry Potter to help pay for tuition, seems to have captured the attention of this entire island, not to mention University and my college.

Not an hour later, I was confronted with the sad affects while walking behind a cellphone (here called a mobile) talker, who was discussing how disheartened she had been by the news with what sounded like her mother.  I don't believe this girl was a fellow LMHer.

Finally, last night at formal hall (more on this in a later post) for the graduate student body at LMH, the head of University Counseling was awkwardly introduced and then personally invited us, all members of the graduate class to visit with anyone in her offices--at anytime.  It was also mentioned by our head of house (generic term for college masters, presidents, provosts, or, as in the case of LMH, principal) in her formal speech last night.  

This in addition to the conversations I have had with my classmates at LMH over the last few days.

It caused me to think a bit about the long arm of death.  I unfortunately am familiar with death's affects, having survived two siblings over the last six years.  Each time as in this, so many are caused to ponder life's fragility, regrets over unexpressed or unacted love, and the inevitable bridge between this life and what lies beyond.  Anger, fear, sorrow, regret, and guilt over continuing to live for survivors is experienced first in rapid succession before the cycle repeats itself, albeit in a mildly slower rotation.  Often this cycle can be repeated for years, though each cycle's rotation becomes slower.  Thus death's arm reaches long into the lives of survivors.  It also reaches long in its breadth, sweeping all who knew the individual and many, perhaps hundreds and thousands who don't, into its embrace.

I feel deep compassion for all affected by this tragedy.  Loss is always painful.  Sudden loss can be devastating.  Yet I keep replaying over and over in my mind the passage from the New Testament that was so helpful to me and my family when my sister passed away.  She was killed by a faulty, carbon-monoxide-emitting furnace, but I at least regretted not being more proactive in expressing my love for her.  I had many "if onlys."  There was another who expressed an "if only" - Martha.  After Lazarus had died, Martha greeted the Savior with what sounds like a grief-stricken rebuke: "if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."  If only you had been here, this would not have happened.  If only I had been the kind of friend that he could talk to.  If only I had made that last call, invited him to lunch.  If only.  To this, and all other "if onlys" the Savior more properly and resoundingly rebuked Martha "I am the resurrection and the life!"  

The Savior, in essence, is telling Martha that we all fail.  We all live our lives such to leave something wanting.  We all, including the dead, need a Savior.  Yet He compensates for all "if onlys" and other mistakes, including suicide.  He may not bring Toby or my siblings back to life as quickly as was Lazarus, but, if we believe in Him, He will give life to our hope, to our peace, to the survivors, and, ultimately, to the dead themselves through the resurrection.  This I know, and this I hope to share with those surviving here in college.  

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