Terrible news came out of Charlottesville yesterday. Three UVA students, shot and killed by another. Two more injured, one still fighting for his life. They were all football players.
Their photos are heartbreaking.
I was a UVA student once. I sometimes slip up and think the people there are my peers.
They weren’t, though. They were kids.
It’s close to home.
Football doesn’t matter at all. Football matters a lot. When she gave a speech at our wedding, my mom told a story about something that happened while we were doing the same thing we do every year at the end of November: watch the UVA vs. Tech game at her house.
It happened in the parking deck next to the frisbee field. That’s a place you pass through before practice, or before class if you’re in the architecture school. I had never associated it with death. Now, how can I not?
Here in Richmond, an hour away, they arrested the shooter at a house that sits just beyond a familiar running route.
I mourn for their fathers and mothers. Multiple friends have had kids recently. It’s terrifying to think that in 20 short years, this could happen. A news story said one set of parents is traveling up from their home in Miami. It said that another posted only this on Facebook: “Lord, please help me.”
If there are tears, we must cry them. The anguish, the despair, the loss— these must have room to breathe. Even if we try to turn our backs, it won’t go anywhere.
That’s grief for you. Unmovable.
There is one thing, though.
UVA’s athletic director issued a statement that included the following:
"We lost three talented and bright young men. We will never see what their impact on the world would have been, but we will never forget their impact on us.”
I know what she’s getting at, and she’s right. Within death, there is finality. Phone calls go unanswered. Chairs at the dinner table sit empty. You start to notice the questions only that person could answer.
Still, I have found soothing in a more nuanced understanding of the word “never.”
Just the act of planting a seed can bring a gardener joy
(and that’s to say nothing of the first moment the flower sprouts).
Once that joy comes to life, what happens to it? Where does it go?
If only we could trace it, like when doctors inject someone with dye so they can see their blood vessels on an X-ray…
then we would see how infinite we are.
All we do is reverberate.
And as for the question of what a person even is…
whether flesh and blood are the beginning and end:
If I hear a song, and I sing that song
I’m animated by it, moved by it… if it motivates me to share some love with you…
If that song is what brings me to life,
Am I not the song itself?
Is my life not on the airwaves
just as, in January, the flower’s life is in the soil?
If this physical body goes tomorrow—this never-static physical body—
but then, on the way home from my funeral, or a few years later while walking through the threshold of some convenience store door,
you hear that tune
and feel me at your side.
Can you really say that I am gone?
Lavel Davis, Jr. Devin Chandler. D'Sean Perry.
It is time to ache for them, for the people close to them, and for ourselves.
It might be that time for a while,
and one day, even when we think that time has passed,
it will be time again.
Through it all, and on the other side,
their impact on the world will be waiting for us
here, all around, forever and ever. In the present tense.
Just take a moment to look. It’s right in front of our eyes.
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Thank you for inviting me to feel the death of these young people and mourn their loss. Appreciate you bringing it home. 😢