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A reminder for myself

| Tuesday, April 30, 2019

I really don’t have any idea where you are right now. You might be reading this letter in some fancy office on the top floor of a skyscraper, looking down on the tiny figures who bustle to and fro on the streets below. Maybe you didn’t make it. Your basement office isn’t so luxurious. Worn-out lightbulbs flicker intermittently onto the page. Maybe you’re distracted reading this because you’re sitting at the kitchen table and your 3-year-old son keeps grabbing your leg (Don’t ignore him!).

I hope that you are a good man now. At least, I hope you’re trying to be one. I don’t know if you were a good man when you were in college. It’s not really my place to say, but I know you were trying.

I wonder how you feel when you look back on your four years at Notre Dame. Inevitably, some memories will recede slowly into the depths of your subconscious. Technicolor experiences fade to black and white; sharp contrasts blur until only hazy silhouettes remain. Soon these too will disappear, and you’ll be left with nothing but a vague feeling. This will happen with the people as well. I hope you can still visualize the faces in vivid detail. I wonder which faces will disappear first.

Consider, for example, the double you lived in during your junior year. You might be able to picture the general setup — lofted beds in the standard “L” formation, futon facing a large plaid chair. But do you remember that the doorknob didn’t always catch when you turned it, that it sometimes took you three or four tries to enter the room?

I can describe any number of things to you, but they would be insufficient. These words will spark memories — but, as you know, memories are flawed. You cannot fit all of Notre Dame into your brain — you cannot even fit all of your roommate! I’ve been thinking about this lately. What should I take with me from these four years? There is something which cannot be summarized. I think the problem is that there is just too much.

There are some things that I cannot bear the thought of you not understanding, though. Please know that there were beautiful people in your life. There were so many of them, far too many to count. Incredibly, some of them were your friends. You ate together, worked together, lived together, laughed together. You spent innumerable hours with friends. Doing homework, playing basketball, sitting around late at night and talking about things you’d never felt comfortable enough to share with another person before. It was deeply good.

Life was not always happy. You might forget that, as you look back on the “good old days.” Sometimes, you and your friends hurt each other. Please do not forget this pain, because if you forget the pain, you will forget the moments of forgiveness which sprang from it. There were moments at Notre Dame that broke you. Try as you might, sometimes you couldn’t stop your thoughts from hurtling down those tried old roads of negativity, of hatred, of despair. In these moments of darkness, your friends showed you what it meant to live in the light. You tried to do the same for them when they were weak. Please remember this: Some of your friendships became about so much more than “shared values.” The strongest bonds were forged between broken hearts.

At present, you see indistinctly, as if you were looking at the past through a mirror. But I believe in life after death. I hope you still do too. Someday you will fully understand the meaning of your four years at Notre Dame. The fading faces of your friends will be restored to their true glory. You will see clearly the beauty from each moment, even the moments of pain, because everything will be illuminated totally in the light of God’s grace.

But that’s a long way off.

For now, you have a reflection of that light, grotesquely distorted by the savagery of time. But even the imperfect reflections from these four years can fill your soul with miraculous warmth. Hold them. Keep them. And look forward to the day when they will be made perfect.

Matt Brown


April 25

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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