I spent the last week preparing the eulogy for Linden’s service last night. In visceral situations like this one, part of that preparation always includes maintaining a kind of emotional distance. I believed it would help me read Linden’s mother’s words most effectively. For nearly a month, it worked. And then last night it didn’t. I was moved to tears twice.
I saw Linden’s classmates in the visitation line ahead of me. I began to cry when I saw the pain on their faces as they looked upon their friend. I was able to speak to Linden’s parents and sister through tears. When I returned to my seat I broke down. Through years of training, I have become an expert at bottling and containing my emotions. None of my defenses worked. I sat there, palms jammed into my eyes, dams which failed to hold. Lynnette was there as always, to literally and figuratively get my back.
When I was a student at Damien, my friends and I never used the words “brother” to describe each other. We were friends, and while nearly all of my very best friends are those I’ve carried with me since high school, we never spoke that way – certainly not while we were students. In the last few years, however, my students have much more frequently used the terms “brother” and “brotherhood” to describe their relationships with each other. Cynical as I am, I often wonder how much they mean it. They showed me and everyone last night.
Many of Linden’s classmates showed up last night to pay respects to their classmate and support his family. They coordinated black pants, black dress shirts, and black ties. Of course I gave them crap. So wait – you guys can shave and keep your shirts tucked in? I knew it. But joking aside, to see them all standing together, unified, some traveling back from college on the mainland was awe-inspiring. The class of 2014 made me cry that second time.
Back when I was in college, there was an urban legend floating around, and it went like this:
At UCLA (or USC or wherever) a philosophy professor gave a final exam which featured a single question: What is courage? A single student opened his blue book and simply wrote This is. He closed the blue book, turned it in, and walked out of the classroom.
There was never any information about whether the student passed, or how the professor reacted. It was a great story, even if everyone conceded immediately that it probably wasn’t true. Were I the philosophy professor, I would have read the student’s two-word statement, smirked, then written “Nice try” just before connecting three lines to form an F.
Even so, if someone were to ask me What is Viriliter Age? I would show them this picture and simply say “This is.”