Over the last six weeks, Loyola has experienced nearly indescribable pain with the sudden, unexpected and tragic losses of Chance Briant, Kyra Koman, and Jon Altschul.
John Sebastian said in his opinion piece two weeks ago that Kyra Koman had “just begun exerting her force on the universe” when she died at age 18. This is true for Chance, 21, and Dr. Altschul, 34, as well.
Kyra was an incredible musician, just coming into her own, gaining confidence in her voice and herself. Chance was just about to graduate and unleash all of his creativity in music, film and humor into the world—a world that is better for having had him in it.
Dr. Altschul was one of the most passionate and engaging professors on this campus, sparking a love for philosophy in everyone from third graders to his fellow professors, and dedicating any extra time he had to improving this university for us through the faculty senate and the financial equilibrium committee.
Their deaths, each about two weeks apart, have put many of us on edge, wondering what could happen next. We pray that the horrible things are over, but there are no promises.
For now, though, we’ve come together to face our grief. This will be a long process, and one that cannot be rushed. Grief manifests itself differently in everyone, and we simply have to let it run its course, processing it as best we can.
Thankfully, our professors and friends understand. They’ve offered open doors, shoulders to cry on and jokes to make us smile.
Our friends have ensured that we don’t isolate ourselves. Our professors have done what they can to lessen our stress, lightening heavy workloads or opting to hold class on the quad. Our conversations in passing now hold genuine admissions of how we’re doing and end with “see you tomorrow”s given as promises.
As this grieving process continues for each of us, we must maintain this level of care for others. Reach out to your friends who are struggling. Be honest and understanding with your professors, knowing they are going through the same thing you are. Be kind.
There will come a day when our grieving has ended, though I cannot say when that will be. When it comes, though, the next phase of our work will begin.
As the grieving draws to a close, we as a community must step back and search together for what in our university needs to change. There are no singular causes for these deaths, but perhaps there are ways to make life better for those of us who remain.
For seniors, one simple step forward could be to designate your senior gift toward the University Counseling Center. The university intends to maintain but not increase their funding for the center next year; our investment could contribute to preventing any more deaths or anguish.
The rest may not be so simple, but our current attitude of working together can certainly carry us through our grief. I ask only that we hold tightly to that communal spirit that makes Loyola so exceptional as we move into what could be a brighter future.