“as a family would….”

Students, gathered as a family, remember those lost.

The past weeks have been difficult ones on JMU’s campus, as news that none of us ever wishes to hear has come too often. As we learned of so many untimely deaths in our close JMU community, we are all shocked. It feels deeply personal. Yesterday, President Linwood H. Rose wrote a letter to the entire JMU community. With wisdom and eloquence, he speaks for and to us all, and his words are worth sharing …..

To All in the University Community:

Over the course of the last several weeks we have lost good friends, fellow students, work associates and family members. The ending of life is an abstract concept with which most of us have difficulty, particularly when death occurs prematurely and when its hardships face us so frequently and in such a short period of time. It is painful to be separated from those we know and love. Our emotions are numbed, our sensibilities are challenged and for some, our faith might even be tested. We have more questions than answers. We feel vulnerable and though we humans are resilient creatures, capable of outliving our heartbreaks, it is nevertheless, so hard to move on.

So where do we take comfort and what do we do? Well, as a family would, we should first reach out to those most immediately touched by the departure of a loved one and offer our support in coping with the loss. We should look for those in need and we should lend a hand. There is no best way to do this. Just make the effort your own way – it will be appreciated.

Building memories, reviewing times together, creating personal memorials such as photo collections, special music, a particular event may help us treasure the experiences we shared with people who meant so much to us. Doing these things with friends will be especially rewarding.

While we all need our own time to grieve, we should talk over our feelings with our friends rather than retreating to our inner selves, and we should invite others to talk about how they are feeling as well. If you need some help with this there are professional counselors on our campus who are trained to assist in these troubling times. Reach out to them. They are amazing people who care about you.

In a university community we have people of many faiths and beliefs. If we have deep conviction we can trust in the teachings of that faith and hopefully derive some sense of understanding and peace from even the most devastating losses. Turning to our spiritual leaders can offer comfort.

As we always seem to do, rely on each other. We work and study in a nurturing and supportive university filled with caring people ready to volunteer and help. If you need help call on them, if you are ready to help, offer. Given the accidental nature of several of the recent deaths, I urge you to watch out for each other’s safety. When I was twenty I thought I was invincible. That sense of security while enabling is simply false. Have fun, experience new things, but be careful and use good judgment when it comes to your own safety and that of your friends.

Next week we celebrate Thanksgiving. Let’s take advantage of this time to be thankful for the time we have shared with those we have now lost. Be thankful for the friendships we currently have and for the ones that are yet to be developed. Be thankful for your JMU family and your immediate family – hold them close and appreciate them. Be thankful for the many aspects of life that we take for granted and seldom value until they are no longer available to us. Say a prayer for those in need and a prayer of thanksgiving for those you have around you.

When my own mother passed away a few years ago, a good friend and fellow university president sent the following statement to me. It is attributed to Henry Scott Holland, professor of divinity, Oxford University. It offered inspiration and comfort to me. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

“Death is nothing at all – I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way you always used. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes 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 the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant… There is absolutely unbroken continuity.

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you – for an interval – somewhere near just around the corner. All is well.”

Linwood H. Rose
President
James Madison University
November 16, 2011

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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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