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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Support from the Notre Dame community

About a month ago I lost my little brother. He was my Irish twin, not even a year younger than I am. I don’t remember a time without him. Losing him to mental illness shattered my heart in a way that I don’t think I can ever recover from. In the month I’ve been back at school, it’s been a struggle knowing that most of my family and everyone who knew him is far away from me in my home of Dallas. Since then, I’ve been told by many people to try to find little moments of joy every day despite the suffering. For me, most days, this little moment of joy comes as a result of the astounding demonstration of extreme kindness, compassion and generosity of the whole Notre Dame community.

Community is often a sort of empty buzzword, repeated often without any real meaning behind it. The community at Notre Dame does not fall into this category. It is far from meaningless. People repeat the word often because the community here is living. It is living because it is concrete, demonstrated daily in actions taken by the students, faculty, staff and clergy.

When I first heard the news over the phone, I was standing outside the class I had just been in. A graduate student who I did not know and whose name I don’t even remember saw me in distress, and took it upon himself to stay with me and comfort me until I could get to my family. While I was sitting outside, crying on his shoulder, two alumni who came to campus for their class reunion came over to check on me. They stayed and spoke comforting words and prayed with me.

In the weeks following, my professors have been incredibly understanding and helpful. They assured me that they were there to help and let me know that they were praying for me. The hall staff in my dorm made it a point to check on me often. My family and I have received multitudes of letters from different people at the University, many of whom I have never met, saying that they are there for me and that they are offering masses for my brother.

I get to come home to my incredible roommates, who never judge me for how I’m feeling on any day, who understand when I need to be distracted or when I need to cry about it and who let me be alone, but never lonely. I get to sing with the Liturgical Choir, whose voices and prayers lift me up and bring me comfort.

I’m far from being OK. Many days are so difficult that it’s hard to keep going. But I am comforted by these little moments of joy and the fact that there is a campus full of people who care about me. The number of people I need to thank is so many that I cannot adequately express my gratitude to them all, so this is my thank you letter to the whole community. Thank you to the graduate student who stayed with me, to the classmates who checked on me afterwards, and to anyone who has reached out with a kind word or a prayer. I pray that Our Lady has her arms around my brother in the same way that her University has its arms around me. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this extraordinary community.

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