Friday, March 16, 2007

evil tidings take two: not exactly a goldfish

Photo of Eric in Central Park
It's been a blurry sort of week, ending in an impromptu whiteout. The wet snow falling this morning was followed by hours of pellet ice plinking against window panes. Each time I stepped outside my office the sky had relocated itself on the pointlessly shovelled sidewalks.

It's not sufficient to say things have been out of sorts this week. It's worse than that. I stare blankly at the computer screen and feel unfit to write about it. Julia bravely attended the matter in a post entitled "evil tidings," and that relieved me. But then she went and deleted her entry. I am not equipped for writing about death, much less suicide. Parking tickets and bathroom phobias are more my level.

A genuinely wonderful young man is dead, and I mayn't merely prattle on about eyes pasted to toilet seats.

But how does one address the matter? Certainly not by comparing the passing of the young man to such a pedestrian occurrence as the death of a goldfish, as was done yesterday after the panikhida in the chapel. I know, I know: the whole seminary is grieved and confused about what to say. Eric's death is hopelessly complicated, pointless, and wrought with legal intrigue and personal sorrow—it is hard to know what to say.

But I've had it with standing in on things that don't work. I left half-way through the sermon and went over and laid on the floor of my office and cried. I didn't even know Eric besides an occasional "hello" (and, well, as my "friend" on Friendster). The vast majority of people on campus knew him better than I. But the circumstances of his death bring up my own not-so-fond memories of He Who Will Remain Unnamed meddling in my business, making me feel confused, dishonorable and ultimately (thankfully) indignant. And I was crying not for just Eric, or for me, but because how easy it is to lose our balance, trust people who are untrustworthy, and give up hope.

Tomorrow is Eric's funeral. The snow pelting against the window has halted the progress of at least one carload of students headed to Illinois for the service. But other cars take their place, including that of spontaneous Jenny with Natalie in tow. Meanwhile, I sit here and listen to the snow, and end this with Eric's own words used to describe himself on (er, yes) Friendster:

I'm just a regular guy who gets caught a little too much in his own head. I need other people to get me out of there. I believe there is a God and I'm just trying, not very successfully most of the time, to figure out what he wants me to do from one second to the next. I don't fit most categories on most levels, but I'm okay with that. I think we live in an amazing world and there's so much beauty in it if we're just willing to see it. I like to just walk or drive and astound myself by the fact that I'm conscious at all. Life is a precious gift. I just have to remember that...

-Eric Iliff


Anonymous said...

I attended Eric's funeral this morning. We were good friends in college - I cry now that we were not closer. May his memory be eternal.

Alexander said...

Thank you for your words and capturing some of what I have experienced and felt today (including that of staring blankly at a computer screen not knowing what to say or think). Memories of Eric and some the fleeting times we spent together at seminary inexplicably came to mind while I was tucking my son into bed last night; then in horror, just a few minutes later, I started learning about everything after reading an Alumni e-newsletter. I was beginning to think I had come to a point in my life where my seminary experiences were now far enough removed that I could, in a sense, stop running from them and look back to remember only the "good times." But now I see only how selfish I have been, too worried about my own relatively insignificant struggles there, deeply regretting that I had not taken the opportunity to have been a better friend and brother.

Anonymous said...

Eric briefly had a blog:

Julia said...

Lucy, you are very much equipped to write about these things, and you've done it so well here. I really regret deleting my original post, but not as much if deleting it inspired you to write as well. I've done a new post about Eric's funeral.

I also appreciate and can relate to what Alexander said.

Erin said...

It's wonderful to hear how others are feeling in this difficult time- especially being so far away from everything here in Wyoming. Thanks for your beautiful words.

J said...

Thank you so much for your kind words about our son.

God bless you!

John Iliff
Bloomington, IL

Anonymous said...

You are such a beautiful person with beautiful words. I can only hope my brother reads this who is suffering with grief too. I just want to be there to hug him and those of you at sem can do that for me. I can't believe how close I was to He who must not be named. I can't believe I brought others to become close with him too. I can't believe he has two boys who have to grow up and learn one day what their father truly did and how many people are hurting because we trusted so willingly.

J said...

Sorry my email is:

Lucy said...

Thank you to everyone for making comments. It's humbling.

To Eric's father: thank you. I knew your son so little, and yet is clear what a deep impression he made on all those around him. It is no exaggeration to say that his honesty and courage are an inspiration to me and to others. My prayers are with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I feel the pain everyone is going through as I only recently learned of Eric's death. I didn's know Eric as well as now I wish that I could have. We met briefly last year after having conversed albeit online for many months. I never once learned of the internal pain he was burdened with. I consider it an honor to have known even just a fraction of Eric as he has touched my life in a way no one else ever has. He will be missed by many, and I pray each day, that he knows now, he was not alone here on this earth. That he was loved, by many and he will be remembered for his contributions to each of our lives.

JN1034 said...

Thank you for posting your emotional words. Had we known ... we just learned of this. And we're crying in convulsions. This pain hurts the whole Church. This tragedy could've been avoided had our hierarchs a voice and safe place for Eric.

+ May Eric's memory be eternal.