It may seem morbid to some, but I made a decision a couple years ago to keep track of death dates of people I've known. In fact, I consider this to be one of my most solemn "duties", if you will, putting one into my computer's calendar, recording the person's name, year of death, and setting the event to repeat itself in the calendar every year so that I never forget.
Two and a half years ago I did this for my friend Andrew. We probably hadn't talked since our trips to Europe as part of the People To People Student Ambassador program a couple years previous, but his death still hit me hard–he was only two or three years older than me.
Tonight, I placed a new name forever in my calendar. She was killed this past week, not of old age, not from an accident, not a heart attack or anything; she was murdered.
I don't have any words, really, so I'm just going to ramble.
Katherine was a junior when I started at St Olaf as a freshman, and she was one of the four actors in 'Perpetua', the first (and only) play I worked on in the theatre department. She was always a fun person to be around, every memory I have of her she had a smile on her face. She was one of the only upperclassmen I knew my first year, and she helped welcome me into the St Olaf community, not in some cheesy "welcome to St Olaf" way, but by actually stopping to say "hi" to me when we'd cross paths between classes or wherever. She never stopped doing that, even after Perpetua had finished. We weren't ever 'bestest buds' or anything, but I definitely consider KO to have been a friend.
I tracked it down: the last time I saw Katherine was on March 10th, 2007 (Day 11 of my "Surprise Me" experiment).
The night I first found out about Andrew's death, one of my friends told me something I found unsettling at the time, but have since learned to be pretty much a true assessment of life: she said "you're entering a time in your life filled with weddings and funerals". That hadn't really been the case for me before, but since that time I've lost count of the funerals I've been to or (considered going to, but couldn't make it), and this summer alone I went to four weddings. Weddings I can handle–those are happy–funerals I wasn't prepared to deal with. I guess I'm still not.
When someone dies of old age, or even just at an old age (from cancer or disease), that I can deal with, I can accept that, especially when you can see it coming and sort of brace yourself for the inevitable. When someone dies in their old age, the funeral is still a time of sadness, but it's also a time of celebration of a life full of years, and the incredible impact those years have had on friends and family. It's sad, but it's happy, too.
When someone is cut down in the midst of their life, that makes me angry and sad and so many emotions that I can't make sense of. Katherine was 24, just two years older than me. How do we even begin to deal with that? I'm the one who likes studying theodicy, right? The conclusions I've drawn from that study yield me no comfort. When I go to this funeral, there may be a celebration of 24 amazing years of an amazing person's life, but for me those emotions will be outweighed by the need to mourn such a premature, pointless, unnecessary death.
Someone reminded me earlier tonight that "Christians never see each other for the last time". My current theological struggles aside, I'll take that as true. That does nothing to address the issue that there is no good reason that I, in any earthly knowledge, can see for Katherine's murder. There is no good reason she should have died so early in her life. This, for me, will be a funeral of sadness.
It's a bitter reminder of how unfair life is, how unpredictable, and how scary. It scares me to think that I might wake up tomorrow, like Katherine did one day last week, and be killed, just like that, out of the blue. I'm not going to stop living my life and hide in fear, but I need to be honest, I'm still scared.
Katherine and Andrew, both, have reminded me how precious every day is. You are both missed, my long lost friends~