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CW: Conversation about death & mourning

It was August 19th, 2019. We were wrapping up our first day of student staff training when I got a message from an unknown Twitter account. The message said they were a friend of a someone I knew, and they needed me to know something had happened. My friend, Meg Burnett, had been killed in a car crash the day before while driving to her weekly Dungeons & Dragon game.

I made it back to my office where I opened the news article. It was here that the news finally sank in. I sat in my office and broke down. Thankfully, work was over for the day, so I slipped out and made it home to try and collect myself.

Most people in my life didn’t know Meg, and certainly nobody had met her. Because that’s part that made it so painful for me, I never got the chance to meet Meg in person.

We were classmates through Southern New Hampshire University’s online MFA in Creative Writing program. I met Meg in our first class together, and during that time we swapped social media names and stayed in touch. We were on track to graduate together as well. Meg & I talked almost every day, and eventually founded a small writer’s community on Discord. Finding community in a digital classroom is tough, but somehow, we’d managed to do it.

It felt so awkward trying to explain to people how I could be in so much pain over a person I’d never met, but the reality was that Meg had quickly climbed up through classmate to friend to one of my best friends in the year that we knew one another. She was a passionate writer who was trying to learn as much as she could. She wanted the best for everyone she knew, and she was there when you were in a time of need. She cared deeply for her friends and her family.

The other day, amidst all the stress and chaos of living through a pandemic, there was a moment of overwhelming moment of sadness. I couldn’t pinpoint it until I looked at a calendar and realized we were approaching the one-year anniversary of her death. Your body knows even if your brain sometimes doesn’t remember.

Loss is hard. We are currently in a time where loss is part of our norm, but closure is increasingly more difficult. Our identities are increasingly digital and when someone passes, we aren’t just living with their memory, but we’re reminded of the spaces they are no longer present. Meg’s account is still present in our Discord channel. I haven’t had the heart to remove it. Do you remove it? Does it just sit there inactive as a reminder?

I’m not sure what I’m trying to accomplish with this post today, other than to say that life is hard … even unforgiving. Loss is never an easy thing to navigate, and we rarely get that beautiful moment of closure that you see in all the movies. It’s messy.

I’d like to think that wherever Meg is (however you believe in what happens when someone passes away) that she’s able to smile knowing a piece of her legacy can live somewhere, even if it’s something only her and I would know.

R.I.P. Meg Burnett
May 2nd, 1989 – August 18th, 2019

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