Reflecting on recent deaths in the Notre Dame community


I only found out that you would not be there the day before we were supposed to leave.  I was packing anxiously for what was to be my first tournament with the University of Notre Dame Parliamentary Debate Team when I found out.  You had told our coaches that you were in the hospital with appendicitis, and regardless you made the point of asking them to tell me that you were sorry I would not have a partner.  I was worried for you, and I missed you at the tournament.

That was over two years ago.  I never would have imagined that I would be missing you in the way I miss you now.  And I never would have imagined that rather than texting you or running into you at the dining hall, I would be spelling out your name in candles at the grotto with our fellow teammates.

I miss you, Lisa.


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This semester, Notre Dame has suffered the loss of two undergraduate students: Daniel Kim and Lisa Yang.  Additionally, the Notre Dame family has lost Professor Charles Rice and Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC.  Researchers Robert A. Neimeyer, Anna Laurie, Tara Mehta, Heather Hardison, and Joseph M. Currier, have found that a fourth of college students lose a family member or friend every year.  Despite the prevalence of cases, the deaths of loved ones and even acquaintances can be jarring to the core, especially when students’ peers pass away.

Youth tend to assume they will live forever.  It is difficult to realize, at a time when we are healthy and full of promise, preparing ourselves for the “real world” that almost certainly lies ahead, that life is finite.  Yet the deaths of Daniel Kim and Lisa Yang remind us of just that.

Father Pete McCormick, CSC, Director of Campus Ministry, preached at the memorial Masses for both Kim and Yang.  At Kim’s memorial on February 9, Fr. McCormick said that the death of someone near to us “oftentimes brings about and visits the deeper questions of life.  How do I live out my own values?  Are my actions consistent with what I hope for myself?  How will I use my time that I have been given to answer these questions?

“Lean into these questions.  Do not back away from these questions.  Don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answer or if you don’t like what you see,” he challenged the congregation.

Neimeyer et al also drew attention to this search for meaning, purpose, or self-evaluation in a college student’s process of grieving: “In the immediate aftermath of the death of a friend, mentor, or family member, bereaved students often draw on spiritual or philosophic beliefs, as well as familiar relationships and routines, to find a modicum of meaning and stability in a world that has been shaken.”

In a campus-wide email announcing Kim’s passing, University President Father John Jenkins, CSC; Dr. Roger Huang, Dean of the Mendoza College of Business; and Erin Hoffman Harding, Vice President for Student Affairs, encouraged students struggling with these beliefs and routines to seeks support at the University Counseling Center or at Campus Ministry.

Many students joined together to grieve following Yang’s death.  NAMI – ND, the National Alliance for Mental Illness student club at Notre Dame, cancelled their usual Tuesday night meeting so that members could attend Yang’s memorial.  Megan McCuen, a resident of McGlinn Hall studying abroad this semester, wrote for the Notre Dame student blog Come! Live in the Light!, “I had never met Lisa, yet I felt so flooded by sadness. I was so sad that death had touched the McGlinn community, a place so close to me.”

Less than a month after Kim’s memorial, Notre Dame received word of Lisa Yang’s suicide.  Father McCormick reflected at her memorial Mass, “We ponder this event, the death of someone with such love and compassion for others, who suffered so greatly on the inside.  We are anxious, too, by the fact that Lisa is not the only one to feel this way.  We ask ourselves how is it that we can deal with this in the future.

“Our great sorrow on this night is that we came to know her struggle too late,” he continued. “While we cannot redo the past, we can move forward with greater wisdom, understanding and hope.  We hope that Lisa’s death might be an opportunity to help others understand that those dealing with depression should not be completely alone, but instead, for students to reach out to others,” he continued.

The Rover spoke with Fr. McCormick after Yang’s memorial service about how students on campus were reacting Yang’s death.  He noted, “I’ve seen students grieve in the most beautiful of ways.  From trips to the grotto and moments of communal prayer, students have been a wonderful testament to the importance of grieving as a community.  We are never alone. Trusting one another with the heaviest parts of our lives, actually lightens the burden and provides hope to those who need it most.”

Yang’s debate teammate and fellow resident of McGlinn Hall, senior Katya Simon, echoed Fr. McCormick’s words.  “I thought the memorial mass was a beautiful affirmation of the community we’ve built at ND,” she told the Rover.  “I don’t exactly know how to put it, but we know we are not alone in missing her.”

We certainly will not be alone in missing Daniel, Professor Rice, Fr. Ted, or Lisa.  The entire Notre Dame community has come together in celebrating their lives and in mourning their deaths.  Daniel, Professor Rice, and Fr. Ted, I did not know you personally, but you made this campus a better place.

Lisa, I miss you. And for the first time in my Rover history, I do not think there is anything more I can say.

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