Kelvyn Leuthold. Brooke Thompson. Mandy Altman-Clark. Griffin Engelkes. Tucker Marten. Anthony Boyenga. The list goes on.
In the months since I moved to Worthington and began working at The Globe, I’ve become better acquainted with death than I ever wanted to be. It seems like just as the last scar starts to heal, another shock ripples through our community.
What do you do when lives get ripped open over and over again?
I don’t feel like I am qualified to say for sure why bad things happen to good people — or to children, young parents or rising stars. I do know that answers like “Everything happens for a reason” or “It’s all part of God’s plan” don’t do it for me.
For one thing, I contend that those ideas are biblically untrue. But more importantly, I think those responses can make those closest to the tragedy feel like they should just get over their pain and move on from their loss. Like they aren’t allowed to feel what they feel because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable for people around them.
My Grandpa Ward died last February, and that’s probably the most significant family death I’ve experienced. Grandpa’s death was not sudden, so the family had time to process and say goodbye. He had lived a long, full life and in death was released from physical pain.
I don’t mean to compare my loss with that of the families affected by recent tragic deaths. But I did learn some things by walking through the process of grief, and I hope to extract some insight by sharing my experience.
I was in the middle of a very hard semester of school when my dad called and told me I needed to get on a plane. I was taking two classes from a notoriously difficult professor, and I felt scared about missing even one day of either class. But when I told him I needed to attend a funeral, he was kind and understanding.
When I arrived, I got to hold my family members tight. I think the togetherness was the best balm for our collective grief. We miss Grandpa, but we have each other.
One of the most moving gestures offered was the attendance at the funeral of some old family friends and a few of my dad’s colleagues — some of whom traveled all the way from Minneapolis to this tiny town in southwest Oklahoma so they could support my family. I didn’t cry until I saw them.
For the last year a half, I have made an effort to call my grandparents more often. They won’t be around forever, and I want them to know I love them.
Maybe some of those comforts can help our community, as well. I have no idea what to say to the grieving families. No words are going to make this better for them. But I do know that we are all here for them. They are not walking this road alone.
I can’t make the pain go away, but I can extend grace when I have the opportunity to do so. I can’t erase the tragedy, but I can respond to it by treating people with kindness and patience. I can listen and support and reach out. And maybe that's enough.