Thursday, March 9, 2006

Fragility

I 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...

5 Comments:

At 2:15 PM , Blogger Yankee T said...

So, so fragile. You're in my thoughts.

 
At 10:49 AM , Blogger OTRgirl said...

I'm glad you're part of the review panel.

 
At 6:28 AM , Blogger snickollet said...

Your students and the greater student community are lucky to have you.

[What follows is a reply to an old comment you left at my blog; I tried to e-mail it to you and it go bounced.]
Thank you for this and for your comments about the Avastin and the platelets and all. I’m glad (in that strange way . . .) to know that you have Avastin experience. GH has been on and off of it for a year or so, mostly without any visible side effects. In fact, like you, I give Avastin at least partial credit for the fact that GH is here and doing as well as he is, relatively speaking.

As for the “retreat into his illness,” I know I need to allow him that. I often feel like he ends up supporting me emotionally more than I do him. He’s amazingly strong and even-keel, and when he’s feeling weak or low, I just don’t know what to do and I feel angry and scared, like he’s slipping away from me. It’s very hard, as you know all too well. As always, I’m so sorry you know how it feels, but so glad that you understand what I’m talking about.

Hope you and BL are hanging in there. You’re in my thoughts.

 
At 6:32 PM , Blogger timna said...

I miss you. considering fragility was the subject, you've been gone awhile.

 
At 8:30 AM , Anonymous ehj2 said...

the cherry blossoms have erupted with the immediacy of an abrupt midnight snow. i awaken and the streets are filled with the soft light of a million small flowers from tens of thousands of delicate trees. and in a few days it will be over and the landscape will be covered with discarded petals.

in buddhist mythology, the cherry blossom is a metaphor for the transitory nature of each moment ... for the ephemeral nature of life. it is perfect and it is beautiful and in the very moment of its exultation it is finished.

i've been stopped by the word "fragile" -- and have meditated on it deeply -- every day since you wrote this post. i don't think i've covered any serious ground, so you've touched a metaphor that will engage me for years to come.

there seems to be two sides to a coin. there seems to be something that is more enduring than bedrock behind everything that is transitory.

it's difficult to look through both frames at once, although both are true. everything is both transitory and at the same time everlasting.

i don't believe i'm fragile, although almost everything about me is fragile. i believe i'm enduring and infinite. i believe there is something in me that fills the whole universe. do the wings of a butterfly moving in the air around a flower a continent away give rise to a storm here ten days later? then what i do supports the very orbits of the stars.

since i can't fail in the realms that matter most to me, i should probably trust more in courage, in more reckless flights of loving engagement, of my eventual invincibility.

/ehj2

 

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