I’ve been sitting on this post for months because it just never seemed like the right time to post it, and I feel like I haven’t been able to adequately express myself, but someone mentioned Garrett last night and it was funny because I randomly thought about him yesterday, so maybe it’s finally time to get this out of the draft folder.
Grief is such a strange thing. It’s at once private and public, lonely and uniting, painful and cathartic. At the age of 22, I have been to more funerals than weddings. Perhaps this isn’t all that abnormal, but the fact that more of them have been for people who were around my age than for older people isn’t average. Why do I say that grief is both private and public? Because there is something about grieving that makes us want company while at the same time makes us want to push others away. There is this strange desire to go curl up somewhere far away and at the same time you want someone to come into the darkness and grab you and comfort you. They don’t have to tell you it will all be okay, because, in all honesty, for a while—maybe forever, it won’t be “okay.” And that’s just how it is. It’s natural to admit that things are painful and sad and dark and scary. You shouldn’t have to be ashamed of sadness. Grief is not something that should be experienced alone.
There is also this sense of possessiveness that comes over some people. I think it’s awful when people try to minimize someone else’s grief because you may not have known the person as well as them. I think when lives are lost, especially young lives, it is right that we grieve. It doesn’t matter if you know the person or how long you knew them or how well, the loss of life is something that is sad and that is painful and that should be acknowledged. I hope we never become so callous as to forget that even one life lost is a tragedy. Loss of life demands sadness, for a light has gone from the world.
In my last semester at Texas A&M, Garrett Luce, a young man I knew from church that attended my university passed away and not long after, one of my dear high school friends lost her father. There are many things I do not understand, and many questions I will never have answered while I live on this earth. But I see the faith of those who have lost loved ones and who have Faith in Someone greater than this earth and greater even than Death. At a ceremony to bid farewell to Garrett, I saw the glitter of stars in the darkness as the smell of gunpowder hung in the air and the band played Silver Taps. Silver Taps is a tradition at Texas A&M that I hope remains forever. It gives the student body a chance to recognize the fallen, to stand and pay tribute to a lost brother or sister. It is at events like Silver Taps that I realize how uniquely wonderful it is to be an Aggie. It’s not about chugging a pitcher of beer, it’s not about a shiny gold ring, it’s not even about walking across the stage in your cap and gown. It’s things like Silver Taps that show was being an Aggie is really about; it’s about being part of a family. It is a family stands together through thick and thin, through joy and sorrow, through celebration and through tragedy. One of the greatest things about attending Texas A&M is that there are no former Aggies, only former students. There is a quote from my sorority that also comes to mind that I will not state here, but it echoes the idea that grief should not be borne alone, and it doesn’t have to be.
One of the brightest moments in the darkness of all this is when people speak of the legacy left behind. One day, everyone that knew us will be gone and that’s the way life and death work. But, the fact that someone I don’t even know was touched by the life of someone that has gone on, to the extent that their light was a constant reminder can only bring hope. As a Christian, saying goodbye does not mean forever. We will say goodbye to many people over the course of our lives–friends that move away, family that passes away, relationships that fade away–but sadness does not have to be the end. Like the stars that shone so brightly as the last strains of Silver Taps faded on that cold, clear night, there is light in the darkness and hope in the blackness even if we cannot see it right away.