Every good story has an inciting moment. It’s the part of the story that gets the hero off of his couch and into the unknown adventure. Often it’s a challenge from a mentor, like Gandalf knocking on Bilbo’s door, or Hagrid chasing down Harry on his 11th birthday. Sometimes inciting moments are great opportunities. Maybe a position for your dream job opens up, or maybe you get bit by a radioactive spider and you have to save the world. Most inciting moments though, are of a third kind, the kind we don’t like. These are the moments where everything seems to fall apart. Batman, Superman, and a thousand other stories begin with indescribable loss. These moments force our hero to action, because to remain stagnant would lead to demise.
I encountered one of these inciting moments at the end of my freshman year at CIU. The year had been an incredible beginning to my college career. I made a ton of friends and finally found a place where I felt like I belonged. Even more, I had two brothers at school with me to enjoy the ride. John was a senior who, after living overseas for a couple years, had come to CIU for a degree in communications. Daniel was a sophomore who had transferred from a school in Minnesota and was pursuing an English degree. Time with my brothers at school had a dozen perks including everything from road trips home, to late nights at Waffle House, and having someone to talk to when I was tired of the adjustment to college. Daniel even lived on the same hall as me, and though we weren’t incredibly close, it was nice to know he had my back. Unfortunately, Daniel also struggled a lot that year with depression, and right before the last week of the semester, took his own life.
Grief in Community
It was without a doubt, an inciting moment. It kicked off what would be over a year of struggling through grief in a community that was close to the situation. That summer I considered not returning to CIU. Looking back, I am so glad I did.
That semester I had a vast unknown adventure. I grieved, I wrestled with my worldview and my theology, I struggled to love people, and I felt weakness in what used to be strength. I was repairing my worldview from the ground up, and I needed help to do it. Just like every hero has an inciting moment, every hero has a helper or two along the way. I had many.
When I returned the school seemed to have a bittersweet magic in the air. Everyone was sad for me, because everyone cared for me. I felt like the entire school was on my side. My professors gave me grace with my academics, the administration made sure I was doing alright and that I had everything I needed, and my hall was incessantly loving. The guys that lived on West 2 with me cared deeply. They would ask me about Daniel and they would let me cry with them. They would quiet down so I could go to bed at 8:30, and they asked how they could love me more.
These weren’t strangers. They were me living alongside of me, hurting because I hurt, and caring for my best interest, even when costly to them. I didn’t feel like I was a cog in an institution’s machinery, but that I was loved as an individual. On my birthday someone (I still don’t know who) paid for our entire hall to go out to dinner to celebrate. In a practical way, the men on West 2 helped me along in my journey of grief so that I could focus on the task at hand.
Looking back almost two years later, a lot of the raw pain of grief has faded away and I have resolved a lot of my struggles with identity and worldview. Life is rather normal, but two years later, I still have those friends. The guys from West 2 still care about me, and the friends that helped me a year ago still ask how I’m doing. I guess what I’m saying is that looking back from the end, I’m thankful for the journey, but I am infinitely more thankful for the friends I made along the way.
"...looking back from the end, I’m thankful for the journey, but I am infinitely more thankful for the friends I made along the way."