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A Fitting Tribute

Kim Johnson – I’m a girl – okay, so I’m a 31 year-old “woman” but “woman” makes me feel old. What about “lady?” Point being, I’m on a campus of men. One thing I have learned in life is that men and women communicate very differently.

This has been a difficult week for all of us at Wabash College. The loss of a student on a small and tight-knit campus like this affects everyone. Even though I didn’t have the privilege of meeting Patrick, my heart still breaks for the loss of a young person who, from what I understand, was the epitome of what it means to “live life to the fullest.”

My heart also breaks for the young men on campus who were his friends, his teammates, and his brothers. I have been there. I know how that feels. It really sucks. It’s hard to make sense of it and hard to know how and when to move forward.

I have seen boys grow up really fast this week. As I was standing outside the Chapel yesterday after Patrick’s memorial service I just wanted to reach out and hug every single one of them.

Here’s the point in my whole rambling. In my experience, when “girls” are upset they want to talk and share and hug and talk and share and hug. Guys just want to “fix stuff” (often with a grunt). So as I have moved about this campus of men these last few days, I haven’t seen guys talking and sharing and hugging and talking and sharing and hugging like I’m feeling drawn to do, but they are “doing and fixing.”

They have dealt with their broken hearts in a very different way than I am accustomed. That’s not to say there haven’t been tears and hugs, But the way they have come together to honor Patrick has been amazing and beyond what I would have ever been able to do.

Before Sunday even ended, his fraternity brothers and teammates had painted the Senior Bench in Patrick’s honor. (I nearly cried when I noticed the sphinx on either end of the bench had white tears flowing from its eyes.) There were several candles, photos, and a few words about him.

Several of the student bloggers have written very nice pieces on their sites.

His fraternity brothers put together a memorial service for him. Dressed in suits, they led the service. They asked friends, a coach, and a professor to speak. They closed the service quietly and led the very large crowd out of the Chapel. Outside they honored him again as a Lambda Chi Alpha brother.

No 19, 20, or 21 year-old should have to go through what they have this week. But they have. I know it hurts and always will, but all of the Wabash men could not have honored him any better than they have – even those who didn’t know him.

As I headed back to my office after the service, I noticed the day was absolutely gorgeous. The sky was so blue, the leaves so orange, and the grass so green. I thought about a very similar day a couple weeks ago when I was headed back to my office after listening to Dr. Rosenberg speak of his time visiting the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

He commented how life seemed to be “obliviously going on” around him. That comment really stuck with me because when I have been dealing with something difficult in the past, I have felt the very same way. Why did life just seem to be going on around me? Didn’t anyone understand, feel, or hear my pain?

But yesterday life was not obliviously going on around Wabash. When 11:00 rolled around, I was standing on the mall getting ready to take a seat in the Chapel. I turned and looked out over campus. There were people coming from all directions – students, professors, coaches, staff, and friends – pouring out of buildings to come honor one young man.

I would guess that fewer than half of the people there had actually met Patrick, but when one Little Giant is hurting, all Little Giants hurt together. There could be no more fitting tribute on this campus for a brother than the mature, heartfelt display I have witnessed this week.

Patrick Woehnker, you are Some Little Giant. And you will be missed.

  1. It has been hard to have to be abroad this semester and not have the ability to be there to support my brothers. I very much appreciate your recollection of events. You have no idea how much it means to those of us who can not be there to support the Wabash Family.

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