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This is Who We Are

University of Southwest is slowly moving forward to what comes next.

Trying to understand where we are in a process that few institutions have ever experienced seems like an impossible task. Certainly I can attest to the shock and denial phases that struck like lightning and left everyone numb and uncomprehending. Feelings of pain and loss immediately followed, slightly preceding but nearly coterminous with feelings of helplessness, sadness, and reflection.

It is that last thing that I see as a gift of from God. Reflection. None of us know why bad things happen to good people and we likely will never know. Maybe the answer will be revealed in heaven? But we do know that we have to move on for the sake of all the good people who are left behind who are important to us, as well as for our own sake.

In the information that I could find on the stages of grief the fifth stage is where we make an upward turn. Despite the fear that we have to go on without the person we lost, we begin to recognize what they meant to us and how we are better off having enjoyed their presence in life for the short time that we had them. And despite the bad days mixed in with the good, we can imagine them settling into a new eternal life where others whom we love have gone before and in which some day we hope to join them. And while the bad days will be painful and filled with the emotions that mark previous stages, the good days will include happy memories of events, relationships, and journeys together invested with the ones we are missing.

Yesterday we met at the First United Methodist Church in Hobbs to honor the memory of the seven precious souls who made up the heart of our golf team. And while that memorial service was open to the public, the dinner on campus was not. Its sole purpose was to support the families of those we lost and reassure them of our love for them in their time of need. It wasn’t meant to be a rally or a fundraiser because that is not what we believed these families needed nor does it fit who we are as Mustangs. Our identity is in our people and if one of us is hurting we all are.

I might also mention that we did not allow photos to be taken during our memorial service nor were members of the media allowed at our private dinner. This was deliberate and intentional on my part and if further explanation is needed then God bless you. But I will share this from our private dinner since I was the one who said it.

As a community of faith, we believe that the nine precious souls who perished on the evening of March 15th in the blink of an eye on Texas Highway 1788 passed on to a better world where there can be no pain and suffering. What that world is like is at the center of one of life’s most profound questions, but the answer I like best does not come from a preacher or a theologian, but from an American actor.

When Keanu Reeves was asked what happens when you die, he simply said this: “I think that the people who love you most will miss you a lot.”

Our purpose in yesterday’s service was to let those who loved Travis, Karisa, Tiago, Mauricio, Laci, Jackson, and Coach Tyler the most know that there are lots of people here and everywhere who also cared about them and will miss them. We will forever stand with them in remembering their beautiful lives and cherishing their friendship, and living our best lives in honor of them.