I always think it will get easier, that perhaps I’ll just become numb to it all. The next time we lose a student, a former student, or a family member of a student to an unexpected death, it’ll be something that makes sense. But every time, I find that I’m wrong.
With the death of New Richland Police Chief Scott Eads, I find myself staring at that abyss once again. I recall Gary Nordlie telling me, when I first dealt with the loss of someone here, to count on it happening again and again. I brushed that off, thinking that it couldn’t possibly happen that often. I was wrong.
Scott was so many things to so many people. We joked at school that he should have his own office and bathroom here based on how often he was visible, whether it was for a need or just to stop in and let kids and staff know that he cared and hoped for positive things from us all. Scott was the first person to arrive at school the first time I accidentally set the alarm off, and we had a good laugh about that. We connected a bit more in the past year based on a shared love of comic books.
And so I struggle. We all do. We’re sad and angry and confused and frustrated. I know that writing helps heal for me, so I write. Some of you deal with grief in different ways that work for you. We all face those stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I tend to move quickly from denial to anger, and I’m in a bit of depression as I finish this.
I’ll be very frank with you: events like this make me struggle with my faith like nothing else. I always ask God why people have to suffer, whether it’s someone who is battling something like cancer or if it’s the people left behind in a tragedy. Why do good people have to face these horrible events?
I’ve heard the responses from clergy. I’ve heard how God gives us hardships to test us and to make us stronger. Perhaps we’ve done some wrong and need to wake up and find a better path. But I still go back to why someone else has to suffer. When you see a good person suffer, it’s very difficult, whether it’s the person who is dying or has died, or if it’s the people they leave behind.
Maybe this is one of those great mysteries that will be answered when we die. Maybe we’re not meant to truly understand pain and suffering while we’re mortal. Maybe. But I know that this won’t ever get easier. And maybe that’s the point. As long as we feel pain, we know we are human. Our emotions are real. Part of caring about and loving others is that we will inevitably lose some of them. All the wonderful things about our relationships should be remembered when we face those losses.
Scott was a fine person and, by all accounts, a great police officer. I saw so many posts on Facebook and heard from so many kids about his caring and generosity. And this was generally from kids who sometimes had some issues with the law! They respected him because he respected them. I know he had to deal with issues which were not pleasant, but I’ve not ever heard anyone say they felt mistreated by him, even before he died.
With all the hullabaloo about police these days and all the problems we see in other cities, the people of New Richland had to be thankful for not having officers who even skirted those lines of what is okay or not. I’ve always seen a genuine small town caring, and Scott seemed to fit New Richland well. He was a great example of if you show respect for law enforcement, he would return that respect and treat you fairly. It seems that many of the recent problems in larger cities would be alleviated if others remembered that from both sides of the issue.
As I left Scott’s wake Friday, the Guns and Roses song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” came on my radio. The words immediately struck me: “Mama, take this badge from me – I can’t use it anymore – It’s getting dark, too dark to see – Feels like I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.” God works in mysterious ways, and this felt like He was trying to help me get to the last stage of grief, acceptance.
And every morning the sun continues to rise. Lives go on despite loss. Everyone attempts to return to some sense of normalcy, though deep down we know the void left cannot be filled. And that’s okay, because we should leave a small part of ourselves with the family of the departed since their void is immeasurably larger. I pray for peace and understanding for the family and for everyone touched by Scott Eads. Rest in peace, fellow Avenger!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is wroth, which means extremely angry, as in, “Many were full of wroth at the news, but eventually grew to accept things and dwell on good memories.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!