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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

For Annrose

I think that perhaps we die a thousand tiny deaths before the final one comes, bringing along an irrevocable change with the capital D it bears. Despite their seeming finality, these minute, foregone conclusions serve simply as short stops along the way, marcations of the immeasurably painful, albeit survivable crises in our lives.

Survivable? At the time, they seem not.

Last night, in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, an overwhelming community of sorrowful hearts converged. Concurrently, a thousand tiny deaths, a thousand broken hearts, brought into a wordless union by unspeakable pain.

Amid this emotion, and in spite of the grief of my being, in my own humanity, and looking ahead to the altar, I couldn’t help but fixate on a single thought. A simple one, really. Absurdly pointless. But inescapable —

If Annrose were among us, would she like the picture of herself that had been chosen?

Her brilliant smile, her glinting eyes expressing something nothing else could, a pure radiance. In spite of my own perceptions, what would she say if she saw that portrait?

Perhaps she’d render it a prodigious portrayal of pure personality. Perhaps she’d be measurelessly mortified at the minuscule minutiae — the way her hair laid, the way her head turned.

Perhaps, in death, she’d be indifferent.

And I couldn’t help but consider — what photo would be chosen of me one day? I suppose that once it’s time for the question to be answered, it’s too late to ask.

On the worn, wooden pew, I couldn’t consider anything but the trivialities. Reaching for my own chapstick, it occurred to me that Annrose would never again use her own. Never again navigate the masses of North Dining Hall. Nor jot notes furiously as a PowerPoint changed slides all to quickly — an unintended metaphor.

In the stillness, I find parallels of death all around us. In the swell of music, and its silence. In the change of seasons. In receding footsteps, in a slamming door.

In our immeasurable fear when confronted with a loss so deep, so personal, that we cannot breathe for fear that, in exhalation, the next inhale will never come. So paralyzed, that tears, despite our unrelenting willing, will not fall; dammed up in the sea of our own emotions.

Yet, thrown into the light of a flickering candle at the Grotto, a breath released by a brave soul sent up a cloud of life. Evaporating even faster than it formed, it receded into the night air, releasing itself back to the world from which it came. In spite of the risk, respiration remained relentlessly. An example.

In the shadow of the grotto, the lake lay peacefully still. That’s how I imagine Annrose to be — like a deep silence on a warm summer’s day.

When we die our little deaths, we are commas, semicolons. Annrose, in contrast, has reached the period. But is it the end of the page?

Ellen Geyer is a junior sports writer at The Observer. She can be contacted at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.