A December graduate of our program at Duke died last weekend.
Another student had written and told me the sad news in an email, which I read fairly late last Saturday night. I debated whether or not to mention it in my blog, but I decided that I would.
Of course, he and his family, and all of the other students, have been on my mind all week long. He was in the prime of his life. Like so many of our students, he was smart, talented, passionate, full of ideals. He was definitely someone who would have done remarkable things in his future, but it wasn't meant to be. Rather, he was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident: one minute, he was alive, and the next moment, he wasn't.
This was not a student I knew very well. We smiled at one another in hallways, I chatted with him briefly when he'd come into our office here and there, and I observed him on campus at different times, but I was not close to him. His impact on the entire school this past week, however, is so very apparent, and it's obvious that his is a life that had real purpose; already, at a young age, his was a life lived well. How many of us can say that?
Sadly, I learned much more about him in death than I did while he was living.
I traveled to Massachusetts late this past week, because I had an event I was attending at Harvard. It was an excellent event, and I'm glad I was able to go. I also saw my own son and my daughter-in-law the first night I visited. I shared with them that I felt so fortunate to be visiting my son, while this student's parents would never have a chance to see their son again. I had wanted to attend the memorial service at Duke for this student, but I was gone when it was held.
His faculty advisor wrote that he'd read a portion of a Robert Browning poem in this student's honor at the beginning of class, which touched me:
"the wild joys of living!
the leaping from rock to rock,
the rending of boughs from the fir tree,
the silver shock of the plunge into a cool pool of living water..."
And I thought of this quotation I clipped long ago:
"This is the beginning of a new day.
You have been given this day to use as you will.
You can waste it or use it for good.
What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind...
let it be something good." (-Unknown)