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We are family

Christie Bolsen | Saturday, January 29, 2005

Three years ago it dawned on me in one sudden and unforgettable day, the worst day of my life, the actual meaning of “Notre Dame family.”

Everywhere you go on campus, there are complaints from disillusioned students. You hear about ResLife, the Observer, South Bend nightlife, the football team and Student Government. Sadly, we find it much too easy to criticize when the storybook Notre Dame magic doesn’t measure up to expectations and even easier to forget that we get to be a part of a widespread, legendary family.

Freshman year on this day, I realized this-because when you are at your lowest is when the very best in others can surface. My dad died that morning.

I can’t even try to describe that day or the following weeks, but the clearest thoughts I had then-and now-were that people I had barely known two weeks held me up. I was completely unprepared to face the loss alone. Luckily, I was not alone.

It was not exactly the cards from my dorm or the emails from my professors that convinced me that Notre Dame is, in fact, the greatest university in the nation. It was not exactly the fact that random alumni at the Grotto will offer candles to girls who are sitting on benches and crying. It was everything.

That’s the thing about families. The best ones can be frustrating and overbearing, but members are always cared for and the ties are never broken. The same family that kicks you off campus for breaking parietals will reach out its hand again to help you even after graduation.

Families are constantly growing and changing-so is Notre Dame. Every year, a new class joins, and four short years later will leave behind only memories of study days at Lafortune and nights at Turtle Creek. But even though you eventually leave campus, you are always part of the legacy. Change and loss doesn’t weaken a family; it strengthens the bonds when you need each other more.

I wrote my mom an email after I came back to campus after the funeral. She later told me that she saved it and still reads it occasionally, because when I wrote that I felt like I was “surrounded by best friends,” she knew there was no reason to worry about me.

At the risk of excessively rhapsodizing about our school, I should clarify that I can find fault with it as easily as anyone. I’ve noticed the segregated lunch tables and the gender relations that are at best strained and at worst nonexistent. But the fact is, no family is perfect.

That’s the thing about families. You love them anyway, whether you remember to tell them or not.