Kyle Palmer | Friday, November 13, 2015
Events such as Wednesday’s should give everyone a reason to pray. Pray for Jake Scanlan. Pray for his parents. Pray for loved ones who mourn for him. Pray for guidance for ourselves. I didn’t know Jake Scanlan. Many of us didn’t. I wish I could speak to Jake’s life, to recount a funny story of good times past, but I can’t. I simply don’t possess the knowledge to do so. What I can say is that Jake’s passing, like the passing of too many in the Notre Dame family over the past year, gives me pause to contemplate life and pray. When I do so, I almost always arrive at the same conclusion: Let people know how much you appreciate them more often. Be thankful for the simple things. For that, I can say, “Thank you, Jake.”
Life is incredibly short and surprisingly random. What is most difficult to deal with when discussing premature deaths is how often they are unfair and random. When someone dies at an old age, we still mourn their passing, but we aren’t typically as shocked by their death as someone who’s young. It’s easier to justify elderly death; we might say, “It was just their time,” or “They lived a full life.” It’s impossible to ever reconcile young death. Over the last calendar year, I’ve had a couple of close friends die prematurely; one was 20 years old and the other was 31. What is most odd is seeing the immediate void left by their passing. You miss your normal conversations, the regularity with which you used to see them. But as one moves through the mourning process, you come around to being thankful you knew them as long as you did.
Premature deaths teach us we should be thankful for everything we have and to live in the moment. Everyone you meet is someone for whom you should be thankful. Every experience or opportunity you get is something for which you should be thankful. If you haven’t already called your family to let them know you love and appreciate them, put this paper down and pick up the phone. When you pass someone in the hall and they want to talk with you, don’t just brush them off, engage them in conversation. Don’t pass up experiences with friends for the sake of keeping a routine; routines never created memories for anyone. When exchanging the sign of peace in Mass, embrace each other for just a moment longer.
This Thanksgiving season, take some time to reflect on your life and those you’re thankful for. Take the time to call an old friend from high school, maybe even connect with an old elementary school teacher. Let bygones be bygones with that person you’ve been feuding with since high school and go have fun together. Life is too short to hold grudges. Let your friends know you’re there for them. Hug your loved ones a little tighter. In short, be thankful. Don’t let Jake’s passing just pass by as another page in your book at Notre Dame. Allow Jake’s passing to compel you to be a better, more appreciative person. When you get a moment, now and every once in a while, maybe say a word of thanks for Jake, too.