Making Sense of the Senseless

Something truly horrible happened to a person I knew. Without going into specific details, Mary, a former university colleague of mine, was murdered this past weekend. Although I was not as close with Mary as I was with other colleagues, I worked with her on several occasions for more than ten years. We had countless conversations; and I admired her strength, commitment and love for her job. She was a kind and compassionate woman who went above and beyond to help students in need. Her tragic death was completely senseless.

In many ways, I questioned whether to write about this because Mary’s story is not mine to tell. However, the feelings of grief, shock, sadness, and fear that I’m experiencing are my own. And like most things in my life, I feel better when I attempt to put them into words.

During my last few years at the university, I sat on a supervisor’s panel with Mary. She and I would share our experiences as university managers with aspiring new campus leaders. We probably sat together on the panel 4 – 5 times in the last few years. Mary and I would joke that we had given these speeches so many times that we could now recite each other’s stories. It’s haunting how this conversation echoes in my mind now. But I am grateful I heard her story so many times because I can actually “hear” her words and voice so clearly and it helped me understand the person she was.

No amount of watching Law & Order: SVU can prepare you for something like this. It’s a tragedy if a person dies from a disease they were battling, or if they passed away from natural causes. But to have a life taken so horribly is something that is almost inconceivable to me.

Mary’s death hit me deeply, which I never would have expected. (How can one really expect such a thing?). I cannot go five minutes without thinking about the situation, her family, colleagues and friends who are now beyond devastated. I cry when I least expect to, and feel scared, much like I did after 9/11.

Even after writing these words, I don’t know how one makes sense out of such a senseless act. It’s a lot like the question of why bad things happen to good people. We will never know. Maybe the lesson is making peace with that realization. Either way, I am trying to remember Mary for the person she was and the life she led. Hopefully by focusing on the good, the bad cannot be the last word in Mary’s life.

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