Sunday, July 1, 2012

selective mourning - a tragic news story that hits close to home

Sometimes life just isn't fair. i think i've got problems, then i get a major wake up call from a tragic news story that literally hits close to home.  on wednesday afternoon, the idenity of a pedestrian/auto accident from the previous saturday was revealed, and it was also revealed that she had died from her injuries on tuesday.  The victim was 21 years old. a very sad story that we seem to see in newspapers all over the world on pretty much a regular basis.  We generally overlook the news, as we are so used to stories like this, that we become immune to them.  well, even though this particular story was a victim that i did not directly know personally, i found myself extremely saddened and strickened with grief all week.  the accident took place just down the street from where i live.
The victim was captain of the local university volley-ball team - a team i watch play live from the stands in person, on a fairly regular basis.  the victim was not only a great athlete, but a team leader and a community leader. She had overcome so many challenges - including being told she was too small to play. She was ruthless on the court, and expected perfetion out of herself and her peers. When she put her mind to something, there was no stopping her. She stood out in my mind on that team, not only for her athetic play, but the way she took control of the playing field and commanded respect from both her foes and teammates - even during her rookie season. I knew little about her, but i admired and respected her.

She had just graduated and made the Deans honour list. she was a well respected volunteer in the community. she seemed to be loved and idolized by everyone who knew her - including several other members of the volleyball team who i have become aquainted with over the last 5 years as a fan and fellow member of the niche unofficial local athletic community. She was in the process of applying for Med school; and was preparing to take on a new role as Libero - a defensive specialist on her volley-ball team, where experts predicted she would be a candidate for defensive player of the year in the entire country. She was also in the early process of taking up another sport - golf. She had accomplished so much, yet had so much ahead of her.

While i may not have had a direct connection, i felt it appropriate and important to attend the wake on friday, and the funeral on saturday - which were both open to the public. ironically, after years of facebooking, i had the chance to have my first real face to face meeting and chats with several members of the volleyball team. such a sad way to have to meet.

After learning of her death, through news stories and the power of social media, i learned much more about this volleyball player - who now in my eyes, was clearly one of the most amazing people in the entire world that i have ever heard of.

The funeral took place, interestingly enough and fittingly, on the school campus in the arena where she played volleyball - right on the court - where a net was set up, along with a podium.  close to 500 people turned out to pay their respects.  including the entire mens and womens volleyball team, who appeared in uniform shirts, and sat on the front row seating where the team benches are usually set up.

A lovely video tribute played in the background on the big screen, while passionate speakers took turns on the microphone delivering heartbreaking speeches, which had to be the toughest thing any of them ever did. family members, friends, and coach all spoke. Another friend did an amazing musical tribute with guitar and voice - covering one of her favourite songs.  At the end, 8 members of the team - who were likely among her best friends, carried out the tray that held her ashes, and a lovely picture of her in her graduation cap and gown. as lovely as the funeral was, it was probably the toughest hour of my life. some knew her well, and some didn't, but we were all there with heavy hearts, crying our eyes out, for pretty much the entire event. I was so shaken up that i could barely walk home.

While it's not surprising that one might become taken with her, and feel a strong sense of loss over her death, i find it confusing as to why her death seems to have had such a huge impact on me. i've mourned the loss of many people over the years - ranging from family members to celebrities, but this one seems to hurt as much as, or even more, than them all.

I had a video blog up about this, but took it down after receiving a comment suggesting that it might not be fair or appropriate for me to be invading the space of her closest family and friends. and that certainly make sense. the last thing i would want to do is creap out these folks in their time of grieving.... and this is why i make no mention of her name anywhere in this post (even though a little googling will allow you to find her).

But yah, ultimately, this blog is about me and the things happening in my life. i have not felt up to blogging for 5 days now, and this is why. last night, i actually googled the grieving process, so that i may better learn to understand how to deal with this sadness i am feeling over this. if anything, i feel proud that i have a heart and soul. my grieving is moreso for the many close friends, teammates, and family members, than for anything else. many people who knew her, are people i know, love, and respect - and this is perhaps why i am hurting so much. i think another factor is that i see many of her characters in me - including her ruthlessness and perfectionism in everything she did. i feel like we were cut from the same mould, and that i have somehow lost a sister of kindredship of sorts.

Oh well, i will try to take away something positive from this week. i feel honoured to have seen her play volleyball, and feel that learning more about her has given me inspiration to become a better athlete and better person, by trying to emulate and demonstrate many of her good qualities.

Anyway, life must go on concurrent with the grieving process, and go on it will. Summer is finally here in Newfoundland, and its a long weekend - so i will enjoy a holiday monday of sunny outdoor environments that will include beaches, ponds, and ducks.

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