Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 31, 2003
How do you mend a broken heart?
Our community's collective heart was broken last week when one of our young people took his own life. I didn't know Jeremy well, but, as a Riley County fan, I took pride in his accomplishments - just as I take pride in the accomplishments of my daughters and other students in our school.
I have watched his family become an integral part of our community in the few short years since they moved here - his father Brad doing so much as principal of the high school, his mother Mari developing and nurturing the after-school programs, his brother and two sisters becoming involved in their own activities.
My heart aches for all of them. All of us who have children know they have an endless list of questions.
Why did this happen?
What could we have done to prevent this?
How can we bear this unbearable pain?
How do we pretend life is normal?
How can we go on?
There are no answers - only mind-numbing, heart-wrenching pain. And the only choice, really, is to live through that pain - minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
The priest at Jeremy's funeral mass said there are so many feelings - bewilderment, confusion, deep sadness, anger - and love. In the end, it is love that will see Jeremy's family and friends through this terrible ordeal.
Hundreds of us attended the funeral mass. A friend said the procession to the cemetery - which took more than an hour to cover the distance from Manhattan to Riley - was the longest she had ever seen. These services allowed us to show our respect and love, not just to the family, but to each other.
The superintendent of our schools - in the midst of his own grief over the death of his wife Nubby who passed away the day before Jeremy - offered his leadership and compassion to help us deal with this tragedy.
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," Larry said, describing how people in the community are reaching out to each other.
School counselors, teachers and local clergy are also offering their support to anyone who needs it. The rest of us can show our love through whatever means we are able - by praying, calling on the family, preparing meals, running errands, being there, listening, crying, hugging, remembering Jeremy.
Verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 13 probably says it best: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Our community has been shaken by tragedy. Now, more than ever, we must draw on our compassion and connectedness. We must show our love for one another.