Thursday, April 17, 2014

Remembering Shelby Seabaugh

Yesterday I got to meet Shelby Seabaugh's daddy for the first time and talked with him briefly over lunch about the death (and life) of his daughter.  I had Shelby in several classes, and she was always, always a joy to be around.  It made me happier when she was in class. Even though she tended to be very quiet, I could see inquisitiveness, comprehension, understanding, and delight in her eyes (and I think--I hope--I saw even a touch of the agreeable sort of orneriness I see in my own kids).  I will remember Shelby primarily as one of the only students (if not the only student) who could miss a substantial number of classes, still get an A, and somehow write one of the best essays on a test.  I remember being astounded the first time I had her in class.  For whatever reason, she was absent for quite a long stretch during the semester (which is fine, since I don't force attendance; if you can do the work independently, good for you!)  I remember wondering if something had happened to her.  Was she still in school?  Was she still emphasizing in philosophy?  She turns in her final paper and aces it cold.  I don't recall seeing anything like it.  Among her many gifts was a talent for writing.  I looked forward to getting to know her more.  I look forward to seeing her again.  

After talking with Shelby's father, it brought to mind this passage from the book, Lament for a Son, by the philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, where he reflects on the tragic death of his 25-year-old son, Eric:

It was late at night when I returned home, but I assembled the family.  I remember only what I said first and last.  "Our Eric is gone," I said.  And at the end, that we now must learn to live as faithfully and authentically with Eric gone as we had tried to do with Eric present.
How do we do that?  And what does it mean?  It will take a long time to learn.
It means not forgetting him.  It means speaking of him.  It means remembering him.  Remembering: one of the profoundest features of the Christian and Jewish way of being-in-the-world and being-in-history is remembering.  "Remember," "do not forget," "do this as a remembrance."  We are to hold the past in remembrance and not let it slide away.  For in history we find God.
If Eric's life was a gift, surely then we are to hold it in remembrance--to resist amnesia, to renounce oblivion.
All around us are his things: his clothes, his books, his camera, the things he made--pots, drawings, slides, photos, notes, papers.  They speak with forked tongue, words of joyful pride and words of sorrow.  Do we put them all behind doors to muffle the sorrow or leave them out to hear them tell of the hands that shaped them (p. 28)? 
We shall leave them out.  We will not store the pots, not turn the photos.  We will put them where they confront us.  This as a remembrance, as a memorial (p. 29). 

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