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Inspired by your memory

Megan Shepherd | Wednesday, November 3, 2010

As I walk around campus this week, I am filled with memories from years ago. On Saturday morning, Nov. 13, 1993 I joined the throngs of students in North Dining Hall for breakfast filled with excitement for the “Game of the Century” later that day: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Notre Dame. As we got our bagels and cereal, I remember the moment when I overheard another student say: “Did you hear? A freshman died last night!” Seventeen years ago we did not have cell phones, or even wired internet in the dorms, so it took until later in the day to learn the name of the student who was lost from our midst, Mara Fox. She was killed by a hit-and-run driver as she walked along Douglas Road with friends on their way home from dinner off campus. Her death was sudden, tragic, and filled with questions about who was to blame. As news of her death spread across campus, the joy of beating Florida State to claim the No. 1 spot was over-shadowed by the knowledge that a life was lost too soon.

As the weeks went by, the Notre Dame community mourned her loss. Her Lyons Hall roommates and her family and friends experienced the deepest grief as their loved one was taken from them. Those of us who had met her in our first three months on campus mourned the bright light we had briefly glimpsed. I had shared adventures with Mara in our early fall golf class as we both failed to make a single shot, gave up, and snuck back to the Rockne before class was over. That was my only encounter with Mara, but I felt her loss deeply. Who knows the friend she might have become, the contributions she might have made to the Notre Dame community and to the world. At our graduation in 1997, I remember thinking “someone is missing” and my eyes filled with tears as I still felt the loss of someone who died too soon.

Witnessing the Notre Dame community mourn the loss of Declan Sullivan opens up these memories again. The grief, doubt, anger, fear and sorrow felt by so many reminds me of the struggles we all encounter with the loss of someone we love. While his friends and family face the deep and profound loss of Declan, witnessing their grief evokes in each of us our own experiences of loss. For those of us who have lost friends and family members, the grief in our hearts responds to the suffering of Declan’s family and together we mourn the loss of a member of our community. Our compassion opens us up to emotions and questions we have struggled with before: “Why did this have to happen? Who is to blame? Where is God in all of this?”

I believe that God is in the midst of the community that mourns, weeping with us. I believe that we are stronger when we come together to share our suffering than when we try to go it alone. And I believe that everyone responds to grief in their own way. Listen to your friends who want to talk about other people they have lost, do not judge other people for the ways they respond to the death of a loved one — we all grieve in our own ways. And most importantly, if you are struggling to make sense of your emotions or responses in this time of sorrow please talk to someone. Your rector, assistant rector, RA, a professor, priest, campus ministry, university counseling center — someone who can help you reflect on your own experience of this loss to our community.

Declan, I never met you but know many people you touched. You will be missed now and in the years to come. May we all be inspired by your memory.

Megan Shepherd


Assistant Director, ND Vocation Initiative

Oct. 29