Monday, May 11, 2009

The Boy Who Lived ... Eric Hansen

I am wrestling with labels again.

I'm wrestling with a "label" because of what I read in the newspaper and in blogs about my nephew, Eric Scott Hansen, the youngest brother of Brian and Andrew.

Eric was so much more than the 20 year old engineering student at Ohio University who died from injuries he sustained falling 4 floors. He was so much more than the consequences in the body I found his mother, father, brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles & cousin grieving over in the hospital room last week.

His connection to life pulsated with love and energy and was held together by the strong bonds that were established by the faith-inspired family that created him.

Eric was the sum total of each and every life he touched beginning with his brothers and parents. For Elisabeth, he created that unique bond of familiarity, following in Andrew and Brian's footsteps, so he could be a part of her life, too. He made her laugh when he came into her space. He made her smile.

To his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and everyone else in the family, he was the personification of joy. Pure joy. To his coaches, scout leaders, teachers, and employers, he was brilliant, curious, charismatic, strong, and athletic. For his friends, he added light, comedy, and action.

Overnight, he tragically became the young college student who reminded every parent about getting that call from the police station or campus security. For families and friends, he made this reality unbearable.

Overnight, he became the Eric whose mother, father, and brothers reached out lovingly, comforting and consoling every family and friend waiting in line for hours to express their grief, shock, disbelief, and sorrow.

Overnight, he became the Eric eulogized by a very brave priest recalling the enthusiasm we see in every young life, the infectious personality he radiated, and the playful sarcasm that everyone remembers.

Overnight, he became the disclaimer label -- life is "fragile." A reminder for everyone in a wake of tragedy that our actions are consequential. Individually or collectively, good or bad, intentionally or unintentionally, our actions can sustain, save, or erase life in a matter of seconds.

I know, too, there are labels for the endless journey of grief and sorrow we experience when someone so young, so dear, and so precious in our life passes because we also use labels to connect to each other as a humanity. We use labels to heal people.

But I'm not ready to put a label on him or his life or his death or his family. Instead I will be searching for that "candy- coated popcorn, peanuts and prize" label found on every box of Cracker Jacks. It's the only label that has any real meaning for me.

In loving memory of Eric Scott Hansen

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