Friday, November 18, 2005

'Have I been a good man?' A concern evoked by Chris Salazar's death

I learned of Chris Salazar’s death last Sunday evening when I returned to campus. He had lost his balance, the news later reported, and died when he fell from the porch of his apartment. I had known Chris since he was a freshman and seen him mature, over four years. Last year he was an Anderson RA and President of the Senior Class. His picture appears in a collage of RAs on the door of my kitchen.

When a young person dies, my first thought is about his parents. Chris the second young person I knew well to have died in the past month. The other was a CTE staff member, for whom we have not yet finished grieving. Attending the funeral of a child, especially a personable and gifted young man of such promise, must be one of the saddest things a parent can do.

What I thought about next is how lucky and fortunate I am to be alive. Every man or woman living, which means we have survived adolescence, is probably lucky and fortunate to be alive. During the teens and early twenties we are learning about causes and consequences, often by trial and error. We take risks. I was not a hellion as a high school student, college student or young naval officer, but I sometimes drank too much, drove too fast, did both at the same time and took other unnecessary risks. After failing a doctoral comprehensive examination and during a turbulent time in my first marriage I gave suicide more than a passing thought. Some periods of my military service and of course my later work in Sri Lanka, were at least potentially life threatening. Some experiences were more than potentially life threatening.

That Chris and other young people, have died, and I am still here, evokes the question “what am I here for?” – “for what purposes am I still living and breathing on this planet?” "What am I be doing to justify my existence?" "Is it enough?"

Reflecting on this called to mind the last minutes of the Stephen Spielberg film “saving Private Ryan.” Private Ryan, now past middle age, walks with his family among the gravestones of those who had died ‘saving’ him during the Normandy invasion. He recals those men who died so that he might live. He turns to his family and asks,

“Have I been a good man?”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On behalf of the Salazar family and his parents Thank you for you thoughts.

11:16 AM  

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