For the second and third times this year, the Trinity community has confronted death. On Jan. 3, we were informed of the death of business administration professor Darryl Waldron. Less than two weeks later, on Jan. 14, we were informed of sophomore Robert Foye’s passing. This morbid news follows the death of Cayley Mandadi, also a sophomore, last October.
Cayley’s death was felt deeply in the newsroom. We addressed that pain in the week’s editorial: “We must cope with Cayley’s death. We don’t expect healing to come easily. No one could immediately heal from such a sudden passing. Healing will take hard work for a long while, both for individuals and the community at large. We must come together as a university to support one another. … Talk to the people you love and be there when words fail. Please, take the time to remind your loved ones of how much they mean to you.”
We stand by those words, but many of us now find ourselves in the strange position of not directly knowing any of these three members of the Trinity community who have died this year. When Sharon Schweitzer sent the email on Sunday that informed us of Robert Foye’s death, the news staff was in the middle of our weekly story idea meeting, in which we share ideas for what we can report on in the coming week.
There was a minute of tense silence as everyone took out their phones and read the email. Two members of the staff who knew Robert left the room quietly. Then, after a long moment, we continued our meeting; the fact of a student’s passing lingered a strange emotional distance from those on staff who did not know him.
This was an uncomfortable place to be in, but it is likely a place many who are not immediately connected to any or all of those who have died have found themselves in. Beyond reaching out to those who did know the deceased and need support, there seems to be little that can be done. It might feel cold-hearted to go to class, do homework, socialize and relax without feeling any acute sense of the heartbreak that our friends are feeling.
On some level, this is unsurprising. It is the way we work as humans. Those of us who, due to our distance from the dead, are not deeply affected by grief should not feel an obligation to sadden ourselves our reduce our ability to succeed in the tasks of student life — or work and professorship, in the faculty’s case.
What we should do, then, is try to learn what the deceased gave to the Trinity community. At the start of this school year, Waldron had reached out to us, unprompted, to offer a $100 donation to the Trinitonian. When asked what motivated his gift, Waldron replied, “It’s pretty straightforward; I simply believe in what you do.”
Though we did not know him personally, his donation registered as an uncommon sign of kindness and solidarity. We now remember his gesture as an example of the connections that the Trinity community can foster, and of the gap that now remains.
Likewise, we should learn about the good that the deceased have played in the lives of those that they knew: the happiness that Cayley and Robert brought to their friends; the knowledge and wisdom that Waldron passed on to the students who studied under him.
In this way, even those of us who don’t know the deceased can make ourselves aware of the holes that they leave in the campus community and be aware of what we can do to fill those holes. We’ll do our part by attempting to collect the stories of how they’ve enriched this small corner of the world, by sharing those memories and sustaining — in our own way — the living memory of the dearly departed.