PUBLISHER’S DESK: FINDING LIGHT IN DARKNESS
The Freeman community once again finds itself processing the news of a tragic death and standing in solidarity with those most impacted by unimaginable loss. In this case it is the passing of Megan Rollag, a senior at Freeman High School and daughter of a friend and former employee, Tabitha Schoenwald, who died in a car accident north of Freeman Saturday afternoon.
Megan was 17 years old.
Just last week I wrote about a touching interview between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert that focused on grief. It was an unstated homage to community native and beloved USD professor Clayton Lehmann, who died after being struck by a vehicle while riding his bike to work. And two weeks before that, I paid tribute to Darrel Johnson, the manager at the local Ace Hardware who died from illness at just 55 years old.
And now this.
In all of it, I’m reminded of a passage I heard somewhere along the way that is of comfort to me. Because grief takes on multiple forms at multiple times, it may be of little solace to those who are feeling the depths of pain, but I share it nonetheless.
It comes from Henry Scott Holland, a professor of divinity at the University of Oxford in England, and was written more than a century ago:
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.
I will never suggest to know the deep hurt that tragic loss causes, or how one should process that pain, but for those who are living it, it most certainly feels unfamiliar, unfair, and excruciating.
But maybe, somewhere in there, there is a light. And maybe, just maybe, the words of Henry Scott Holland can be of comfort.