When I was in college, I took a course called Thanatology, which dealt with death and dying. In fact, the instructor, James Douglass, attempted to deal with it in writing as his own death neared. I treasure a long note he wrote explaining his decision.
As a student, I lived on, but not without loss and grief. The past couple of weeks have sent me back to the writings of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross who covered the grieving process for her readers and was quoted extensively in the thanatology course work.
One of her quotes has stuck with me through some terrible times of loss and holds me together even as I share the loss others feel upon the tragic, unexpected loss of a teacher, coach, mentor and example for students in the South Conejos schools, as well as the very deep personal loss of a beloved teacher and friend in Alamosa.
Dr. Ross wrote, “Real love doesn't die. It's the physical body that dies. Genuine, authentic love has no expectations whatsoever; it doesn't even need the physical presence of a person. ... Even when he is dead and buried that part of you that loves the person will always live.”
Both the death of Gerald “Tommy” Archuleta and that of Jerry Reed have taught me that we have a very small world and the Hand of God can often bring people together to share grief through personal memories.
My eldest granddaughter, a senior at Alamosa High School, has conflicted emotions about Jerry Reed. She has loved and lost close relatives and is working to understand the reactions of her fellow students at the loss of Jerry, who wasn’t a relative, but certainly was more than a friend.
Tommy’s death was terrible and left his sweet widow with a baby on the way. At the funeral, I watched the bereaved young woman hug each of his students and members of Trojan track and field. An athlete herself, she knew those her husband taught and encouraged and shared her grief with those who didn’t quite understand why their teacher was no longer in the classroom and their coach was no longer on the track, bringing laughter and teasing each one as an individual, not a member of a group who would someday graduate and leave.
My favorite Jerry Reed memory emerges from the existence of the Alamosa Alumni Association. Shortly after I joined, I went to an event at AHS and was greeted by Jerry, who said, “You are the most mature member.”
“Mature? Moi? Surely you jest.”
Jerry laughed as he always did, from the heart and soul. “Well, I didn’t want to say ‘oldest’ because you might be upset…”
He was always a friend to all, especially all Maroons. When we mourned Marie Szkalak, Jerry was there, helping ease the pain. His memory eases our pain today and during the memorial service Saturday.
Tommy was the brother-in-law of my best friend’s nephew’s son and we went to eat breakfast Sunday with the entire family of the widow. As I talked with her father, I learned that her mother is a Maroon. Small world.
It became smaller when I learned that her mother, Alice, went to school and was in band with my eldest son. She was one of his best friends in life and in band, but time interfered as each took a different path. I called him about her loss and he was genuinely sad, not only about death but about what one loses in life.
I cried in public at breakfast and at the funeral. I strive not to show emotions as a seasoned newspaper woman. It happened again when I ran into Jerry Reed’s sister, Annie, who was holding his hand as he passed away.
The body may die, but love lives on.
So, I guess, do tears.