Ann Komadina (and Christopher Gormley)

3 Apr

She died her freshman year here, in 2006. For the last two and a half years, every time I’ve walked up to Hopkins, I’ve seen a little tree and a plaque with her name on it. I never thought of her much – she belonged to the class that graduated the year before I got here – but I always thought about how horrible it would be to lose a member of my class.

Luckily, that hasn’t happened. But we did lose a member of our Honors family.

He, like Anne, was a freshman. His death was a shock that most of us thought was an April Fool’s joke. I can just picture Topher saying, “Dude, let’s convince everyone I died. That would be hilarious!”

But it wasn’t a joke, and even though we’re all still hoping he’ll walk in saying, “Seriously guys? You believed that?” we know that he won’t.

His kayak is still in this room. It’s behind me right now. His parents will probably take it tomorrow, but for right now it’s here, ready for him to come grab it for some early-morning rowing. He loved kayaking so much, it’s both fitting and tragic that that’s the way he had to go.

I’ve been thinking about Anne precisely because I never thought much about her before. She was just this character in the endless list of Hopkins stories, legends passed down from class to class. And someday, as much as it hurts to say, that’s what Chris will be. Just a name, attached to the oar I hope we hang in memory of him.

But for right now, he’s still here. He’s here with all of us, who may have barely known him but remember his goofy smile and his ridiculous joy at setting up the Christmas tree and him wandering into a room on a Wednesday night saying, “Why hello ladies. Would you like a drink?”

By the way, he was 17 at the time.

He only turned 18 on Tuesday. He did it big – waking up in Hopkins the next morning and heading out in his suit from the night before.

He lived life that way. Big and always so happy.

I’m working on his obituary, so I’ve only really gotten to know him through these stories in the last couple of days. But I knew him well enough, myself, to know that he is so deserving of this outpouring of love. Meeting his parents today, I could see that he had always been that way.

He wanted to be a prosecutor, and he would have done one hell of a job. He loved Gonzaga so much, and if his last act was to bring this community closer together, I know he would have been proud.

Yesterday morning, when he was leaving to kayak, Chris talked to one of his hallmates. The last words his friend heard him say were:

“I’m tired, didn’t get much sleep, but I’m excited. It’s gonna be a good day.”

Words to live by. Thank you, Chris Gormley, for everything.

P.S. To all those who are finding this post by searching for “Chris Gormley,” thank you for caring. If you knew him well, I am so incredibly sorry for you loss. The world lost a wonderful young man who was going to go on to great things. To those who didn’t know him, I am tempted to be even more sorry for you, because we were so lucky to meet him. Thank you all so much for caring, and feel free to leaving memories of Topher in the comments.

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