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Tim Solic: He knew he was loved

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, September 29, 2005

At the end of April, a popular, fun-loving and intelligent Notre Dame graduate of 2004 did not feel well for almost a week, and, encouraged by his friends, checked himself into the emergency room of the University of

Chicago Hospital.

Twenty-two year old Tim Solic was hired as a business associate at the prestigious McKinsey & Company in Chicago one year earlier, and was already setting high watermarks for his performance. In a city where there are almost 7,000 young Notre Dame alumni under 29, Tim tended to stand perhaps a bit above an incredibly talented group of young men and women.

As a result of his illness, Tim’s friends set up a Web site where people could communicate with Tim as he suffered through many chemotherapy protocols for a cancer that never was fully diagnosed, despite treatment by some of the best medical minds and medical centers in our country.

Last Tuesday, the Web site contained this (edited) message written by his friend Austin:

“It is with both sadness and yet great relief that I am writing tonight. During the weekend, Tim contracted a bacterial infection that quickly spread throughout his body. While doctors gave Tim antibiotics and the usual immune boosting injections, there was little else that they could do considering multiple risks and his diminished immune system. Tim’s health deteriorated rapidly.”

“A few of his close friends and his immediate family were with Tim in State College during his last two days. Doctors made Tim comfortable, and he told us that he was not in any pain. Monday night, Father Tim Scully, CSC, came to State College at a moment’s notice, to administer the Sacrament of the Sick and to offer an intimate Mass around Tim’s bed, during which he received the Body of Christ for the last time from his father. We visited with Tim the following day, telling stories and sharing great memories. While he was not entirely conscious, we know that he could hear us.”

“At 5:00 on Tuesday, Tim died peacefully. He knew he was loved.”

Tim’s funeral on Saturday at State College, Pennsylvania, was an extraordinary moment of faith and love, and one of those many intangible but real elements that are so integral to whom we are as members of the Notre Dame family. Twelve or 15 of Tim’s undergraduate friends from Fisher Hall and of his sister were present for the wake and funeral, as were dozens of his fellow alumni from 2004.

Many hundreds of people were present for the Mass of Resurrection, and two score or more of Tim’s friends were present at his home after the burial. There, they continued their celebration of Tim’s life and gathered to watch the Notre Dame-Washington football game, “as Tim would have wanted.” The observations of those people who had no association with Notre Dame were similar. They commented on how impressed they were with what they experienced that day. They saw young people celebrate Mass together in a prayerful and faith-filled way. They saw the extraordinary camaraderie of the Notre Dame undergraduates and alumni. They were taken by the easy and deep way young men and women related to each other, “almost as brothers and sisters,” one person noted.

“I never understood what was so special about Notre Dame until today,” a physician, like Tim’s father, who was a Princeton alumnus, told me, “although I have many colleagues from Notre Dame whom I have known and admired.”

“As a Boston College graduate and a lifelong subway alumnus, I have to tell you that I have never experienced such friendship and faith,” a Boston attorney offered. And many other similar comments were made by men and women who were truly in awe of what they had seen and experienced of the Notre Dame ethos embodied in those present.

I hope we never take for granted, underestimate or trivialize what it means when we proclaim boldly that “We are ND!”

It is what I and hundreds of others experienced last Saturday as we celebrated Tim Solic’s life. It is the love that was shared by Tim during his lifetime and during his last weeks and days before he came face to face with God. It was the love of his bereaved family and his many grieving friends in the context of God’s incredible gift to us, the Eucharist, which is the central and compelling force which ultimately unites us. And it is what happens in so many different and less dramatic situations when people are with and serve others, as when we celebrate the Eucharist in our residence halls, or when we cheer on a Notre Dame or a residence hall team, or when we simply walk around our beautiful campus whose many special places raise our hearts and minds to God with gratitude and a sense of awe that is never absent when a Notre Dame man or woman is home.

Tim Solic is home. And he will never have to leave home again.

Father Richard Warner is the director of Campus Ministry. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.