FragilityI keep bumping up against reminders of our fragility, the precariousness of our happiness, and our capacity for great sorrow.
1. A heartbreaking post from Badger, on what should have been her beloved husband's 35th birthday.
2. A beautiful and brave sick little girl who needs help.
3. An essay by a teacher whose former student killed himself nearly 20 years ago.
Part of my university service involves a committee that occasionally has to deal with students who withdraw for unusual reasons, well past the official deadlines. Often, these requests are the latest in a series of minor misfortunes, or a cynical attempt to manipulate the system so that the student (or her parents) can refuse to pay for the campus services the student refused or failed to use.
At our last meeting, however, we had to consider a withdrawal request made by the family of a student. This is against our policy, but occurred because the 19 year old student was under intensive psychiatric care, and unable to act on her own behalf. Her devastated parents, in addition to dealing with a child who had to be medi-vacked home after several days in local ICU, then had the burden of dealing with the university's myriad forms and requirements. I keep thinking of that family, sending their child off for a college adventure, seeing her return home broken and with no promise of recovery. So many psychological illnesses seem to take hold in late adolescence/early adulthood, and there is something especially poignant about such a tragedy happening just as the child is taking flight into his or her own life.
We are a very sympathetic place. We have caring faculty, with small enough teaching loads (and genuine enough commitments) to make personal contact with our students. We have unbelievable support services, for students and for faculty. We have all kinds of safeguards in place. But a few years ago, we too had one of those "how could this happen" suicides of a student. They are so fragile. So are we all...