Today is Wednesday May 16th. It’s probably one of the most mixed feelings-filled days of my life. Today I finished my last final exam and my last paper for college. I’m really, truly done with college. Four years of work, 160 hours worth of college credits earned, and it’s all complete. I am officially equipped to go into the field of journalism. I have a bachelor’s of science. I am 22 and I’ve finished 17 years of consecutive school. But this week that should be so momentous, so exciting, so liberating, is also very, very sad. Dr. Falwell, our beloved chancellor, pastor, and leader died yesterday.
When I was a sophomore, Dr. Falwell fell ill and went into the hospital for a while. The campus was in shock and felt caught off guard. No one ever considered that our leader could be controlled by mortality. Sometimes at this great institution, we forget that the leaders, the amazing men and women who have made so many dreams into reality, are just as capable of being gone as anyone else.
Yesterday I had just finished my 11:00 final. It was my last journalism final which was an accomplishment in and of itself. It meant that I was really done with my major. My friends Leslie and Amanda and I went over to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch. We stayed near school because Amanda needed to head back to work in the Theater office after lunch and I needed to go watch a dvd of a live performance of “Kiss Me, Kate” to analyze for a performance critique for my Advanced Musical Theater class. We had just ordered our lunch when I got a call from Josh. The phone was on vibrate in my purse but for some reason I happen to open my purse in that moment. I don’t even know why. I answered it and Josh said, “What’s going on with Jer??” And I said, “What are you talking about?” Then he told me that Dr. Falwell had been found unconscious that morning in his office and that he had been rushed to the hospital. Josh, a former Liberty student, had seen it on CNN at his house in Florida. We then began to watch the story unfold on the big television screen on Fox News at BW3’s. “Jerry Falwell in gravely serious condition.” We saw some men in Liberty polo shirts who were on the phone so Amanda decided to ask them if they knew anything. “We’ve been told that Dr. Falwell passed away, but it hasn’t been confirmed.”
I was in shock.
We headed back to campus and as I walked into the Fine Arts building I got a text message from Josh: Dr. Falwell died. It just broke all over the news.
I had just seen Dr. Falwell 2 weeks before when he sat on the front row and watched a performance of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” He had just told my friend Brad, who played the leading man, that Brad “ought to do that the rest of his life—that he had a gift.”
How could this man so full of life, so excited about the future, so involved, suddenly be gone?
We found out later that Dr. Falwell had just had breakfast with Dr. Godwin, our Executive Vice-President, at Bob Evans mere hours before he died.
I’ve been connected to a multitude of unexpected tragedies this semester. My professor from Focus on the Family Institute, Dr. Sheryl DeWitt died from cancer in April. My friend Jordan, who I’ve been in 2 shows with at Liberty lost her boyfriend Josiah in a motorcycle accident less than a month ago. The Virginia Tech shooting happened only an hour and a half away from here. My friend Lauren MaCauley’s mother Laurie has been battling cancer of the pancreas all semester. The cancer has so overtaken her body that Lauren moved up her fall wedding to the Friday before last, because she wanted to make sure her mother was a part of her wedding day.
My mom said to me today “I wonder what God wants to teach you through all this.” And I said, “Do you really think this is all about me?” She quickly said “Not all about you. But certainly God wants to teach you something through this, in addition to other people.”
I began to think about the brevity of life. And the enormous thought that for Believers being separate from your body on earth only means that you are with God. And how weighty and huge that is. I’m reminded that we can never get too comfortable here. Or relish too long in our temporal triumphs. But be ever ready for the surprise twist. Life never claimed to be predictable. We need to make choices that reflect our knowledge that life is short. For me, it is easy to be caught up in the excitement of graduating, of getting a professional acting job, of the possibilities of traveling, and romantic future, and growing up, and all the beautiful aspects of life. But the most beautiful, the aspect that we must daily focus on first is that life is all about God. We are meant to bring glory to Him. How we all do that, of course, is different and will be different. But we must live in the knowledge of the brevity of life and the purpose of life—and live accordingly.
So this weekend I’m going to graduate. I’m going to experience it to the fullest. Soaking in all the memories I possibly can. But I’m also going to know and reflect on the fact that in light of eternity that milestone is a small one. We are so blessed to be a part of God’s story—the symphony of the entire universe He holds in the palm of His hand. May we all live each day, in every moment, in every single breath to the fullest. Not only would that undoubtedly make Dr. Falwell proud, I think it makes our Creator proud too.