I got an email from the Clemson servers today entitled: "OBITUARY: Rachel McBryde Kam-Johnson". Moments before I had gotten texts from some of my friends that said "RKJ is dead... What the fuck... I can't even..."
Rachel Kam-Johnson, a 21 year old at Clemson, died on August 28th, 2013 in a car accident.
My heart sank as I realized it was someone I knew. I had seen the obituary emails before. And quickly I began to feel like a terrible person, because I had always really discounted them pretty quickly. As with most of the email from Clemson, off it would go, into the trash bin, without a second thought. But this time was different. My eyes grew wide and a knot in my stomach began to form as I read the name. Boy does that obituary email hit home when the name is someone you know.
A year ago, I was a part of the Central Spirit organization on campus. I had been since freshman year, and after my first semester freshman year I took up a leadership position on the Board of Directors as the webpage guy. Rachel, affectionately known by myself and friends as RKJ, joined the organization either in my junior or senior year. To be honest I can't remember which. I never knew her super well, but I definitely knew who she was.
She was a regular, active member. She came to all the meetings, always wore a bright smile on her face, brought energy to the room and gave much of her time to the organization, whether it was helping out with balloons, coming to tailgates, or devoting her time to the First Friday float. Always with a positive attitude, Rachel brought something truly special to our organization. She exemplified the true qualities of what a member should be like in Central Spirit, and exemplified the true character of how a person should be in life.
I regret not spending more time to get to know her. I regret not treasuring her efforts and thanking her for all she did. No one will have that opportunity more. And lest I forget, as I sit here as a mild friend, her boyfriend and family lay in their beds tonight, distraught over losing the one they love most. Words cannot possibly explain how they must feel right now. I feel for them immensely, and will be praying for them and for Rachel.
Life is fragile. These three words are so easy to remember and yet we so often forget them. We wait until an abrupt event is suddenly staring us down, painting shock on our faces, and as the tears roll on, we wonder how we could forget about death, we wonder how we could possibly move forward, and we wonder how death could possibly take someone so young, and with so much left to live for.
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too familiar to Clemson, let alone the state, or the country. Accidents and shootings plague universities and the all too brutal fact of the matter is that shit happens. We can't stop it. Just try to learn from it, and to uphold and remember those who have already passed.
Death is not fair. It is not kind, it is not forgiving, and it strikes without warning. While those who pass on to whatever lies after this life, may we heed their passing as a reminder and a warning that our time on this Earth is limited. And whether you live to be 100 and die peacefully in your sleep, or fall victim to a terrible crime or accident, we never know when it's going to happen. Be prepared every waking moment. Don't hold grudges, instead offer forgiveness. Don't spew anger, be calm. Do not hold back your heart, allow yourself to love and be loved. And above all, live life abundantly.