Purdue, Day Three: the hard realities of death and life

Purdue Memorial Mall, Day Three (Photo: CKirgiss)
Purdue Memorial Mall, Day Three 1-23-2014 (Photo: CKirgiss)

It was sunny today at Purdue. Sunny and snowy. Sunny and snowy and freezing. Sunny and snowy and freezing and beautiful. Which is to say, it was a day pretty much like every other wintry day on campus the past two weeks.

Except that it wasn’t,

because two days ago, Tuesday, January 21, 2014, someone was killed here. Most people know this already. The world is like that these days – something happens one minute and the world knows the next. And the world graciously and kindly and sincerely mourns and aches and supports from both near and far, until another tragedy strikes, which it will, because that is the kind of world we live in.

Things are quite back to normal here today for many people. On the surface, at least. It’s not always easy to know what’s going on underneath the surface, in the private corners of peoples’ minds, in the silent spaces of peoples’ souls. Sometimes we are not aware of those things even in our own selves because those private corners and silent spaces can be daunting, overwhelming, and (we might think) better left alone. Who has time to ask those questions? To face those fears? To navigate those emotions? Worse yet, what if there are no questions to ask, no fears to face, and no emotions to navigate?

I fear that on this Day Three of what has been called The Purdue University Shooting Tragedy – because we must have a way to refer to it – too many private corners of peoples’ minds and silent spaces of peoples’ souls will be left undisturbed, pushed aside because of busyness, or fear, or nonchalance, or something else entirely.

And that would make what happened just two short days ago doubly tragic.

It would surely be a mistake to contrive meaningless questions, conjure false fears, and navigate non-existent emotions just for the sake of being able to discuss one’s “personal grief process” or one’s “difficult emotional journey.” After all, not everyone has questions or fears or tangled emotions surrounding what happened here two days ago.

And that is absolutely fine. It really is. It is not a direct measure of one’s compassion or empathy or humanity.

But everyone, absolutely everyone, should know without a shadow of a doubt that what happened here on Tuesday was indeed a tragedy. Not because it happened at Purdue. Not because some of us were in the vicinity. Not because some of us were directly affected. Not even because some of us knew the people involved.

What happened here on Tuesday was a tragedy simply because it happened at all. Every single time a life is taken, regardless or where or when or why, it is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude.

Every single time –

because life is inherently miraculous. Mysterious. Amazing. Wondrous. Breathtaking. Sacred.

If it were not, there would be no reason to mourn what happened here just two days ago.

If life matters, then certainly we must mourn its loss. (And oh my gracious, I cannot begin to imagine what that mourning and loss looks like for families, those who love longest and deepest.)

But more importantly:

If life matters, we must live out that reality each and every moment of each and every day with each and every person. Period.

If we do not, then how dare we presume to mourn a lost life? How dare we presume to struggle with death’s sorrow? How dare we band together in a show of support and solidarity for a life cut short?

Someone I greatly admire said today, through heartbreakingly wrenching tears, “I feel as though I have lost a child.” We should all feel that way — not because this is about us or how we feel, not because our sadness is what really matters, and certainly not because we are in a position to understand the pain of those who in reality did lose a child — but rather because a life was taken. And when a life is taken, we all lose something.

Please: in the normalcy that defines so many Third Days such as these, do not fail to stop, to think, to contemplate, to listen, to reflect, to consider the reality of what has happened. Do not make this tragedy worse than it already is by missing the indescribable magnitude and significance of a single lost life. And do not make this tragedy worse than it already is by failing to pay close attention and learning something.

For we all have much to learn. Not just about death, but also about life.

On being old(er)


In the humble (errant) opinion of AARP – who sent me a complimentary trial membership card this past week – I’m now old. Or at least old enough to join the club.  Just like that. One day, not even an invited guest. Next day, a card-carrying (trial) member headed (one presumes) straight to the retirement community.


What do they know?

After living for a certain number of years – during which each and every day I was turning older than the day before – I’ve learned a few things.

1. Going to camp with middle-schoolers is a blast. Period. No questions asked.

2. College students are profoundly philosophical. They ask all the right questions – and too often receive all the wrong answers.

3. There is always enough time to take a nap.

4. Age has nothing to do with the calendar year and everything to do with the spirit.

5. Parenting is more work than any of the books tell you.

6. Most books on parenting aren’t worth reading.

7. Staying married is more work than any of the books tell you.

8. Most books on marriage aren’t worth reading.

9. Sometimes there’s just no explaining one’s dietary cravings.

10. Relatively speaking, I’ve learned practically nothing. Or: I have a whole lot still to learn.

That last one is perhaps the most unexpected twist in this whole growing-up thing: the closer I grow to the Lord and the more I get to know Him, the more aware I become of just how very far from Him I am and just how very little I actually know.

The more I encounter His grace the more aware I become of just how little of His grace I’ve actually encountered.

The deeper I sink my roots into His love the more aware I become of just how shallow my rootedness really is.

The firmer I anchor my life into His strength the more aware I become of just how susceptible I am to a slow and gentle drift.

The more I experience significant change in my life the more aware I become of just how much more change needs to happen.

The more I am filled with His love the more aware I become of just how empty my soul tends to be.

It’s a little bit like discovering that the inside is bigger than the outside, and the farther inside a person goes, the more endlessly expansive it becomes – much like the stable in Narnia’s final days and the manger’s babe in Christendom’s first days.

Growing up, it turns out, is not really about growing old. Instead, it’s a lifelong process of discovering just how much more growing up there still remains to do.




Superbowl lessons

Here’s what I learned while watching the Superbowl last night (besides the fact that if and when the world’s power goes out, we are all going to be babbling fools):

1. Soldiers and farmers deserve our admiration and respect.

2. Modesty and decency will get you nowhere.

3. A man’s courage and coolness increase exponentially based on the speed of his car.

4. Men in general behave like children.

5. Goats in general are smarter than men.

6. Women want a cellphone that matches her skin tone.

7. Little boys want only to be an astronaut.

8. Little girls want only to be a princess.

9. Being top-dog, whether you’re 6 or 60, is what matters most.

10. In the end, it’s all about sex. And beer.

I learned this while watching the game with my faithful, smart, wise husband of 27 years.

I learned this while sipping on a tall diet A&W.

I learned this while reminiscing about my humble, gracious, giving grandparents.

Today I am learning how to clear my head of all the things I learned last night because, except for the thing about soldiers and farmers, it was all a bunch of rot.