On the passing of a former student.

A former student of mine died in a car wreck Wednesday. Her friends and classmates have already set up an online memorial, and hundreds have paid their respects. I have read several stories of the good things she did and the kind words she had for friends and strangers. I have read dozens of expressions of sadness and condolence. And over and over, they ask, “Why her?”

We try to see how these untimely deaths fit into the big picture. Sometimes the meaning is simple, if tough to swallow: one gives his life to save another’s, or one lives dangerously and his death is a warning to live cautiously, or one commits suicide, reminding us to live happier lives and seek help to do so.

But when it’s somebody as kind, as smart, as good, as well-loved as this young lady, with no glaring flaw for us to learn from, we have a tendency to recoil in utter bafflement at the fact that God took her from us so abruptly. We can’t figure it out so easily.

Well, here’s my shot, in the form of a soccer analogy (though it could just as easily be any sport):

You’re at practice in a 5-on-5 drill. Coach calls your best teammate—the one who leads the team, works the hardest, tackles the hardest, never hangs on to the ball too long, directs the other players, makes sure the other players are talking and working together—off to the side. She gets to rest now, and you’re on the short end of 5-on-4.

You can whine about being a man down, or you can recognize that now it’s time to pick up the slack and become a better player.

It’s not a perfect analogy. Our grieving and mourning is certainly not “whining.” There’s not much solace in saying or hearing, “Be better to each other.” But I think that’s the message.

One Comment

CommentVirgin Says:

Well, I must say I just found your page, and just read this, but…

My mom died when I was very young and I find your analogy quite comforting. I like it.

January 6th, 2009 at 7:53 pm