Sometimes, life is too cruel.
Too, too cruel.
Death is even crueler.
Lauren McCluskey, a student and track athlete at the University of Utah, has everything in front of her, all the happiness, all the good things the world can bring her, all the rewards and satisfactions and experiences she can take and give and share.
She’s smart and conscientious and talented, driven as a student, a senior with a 3.75 GPA, and as a track star. She’s 21 years old, with a big heart and big plans.
And then, one night, a man who lied to her about his identity, his age, his criminal background, his intentions, when they had a monthlong relationship that Lauren ended when she discovered the truth, gets angry and shoots and kills her outside her apartment on the university campus.
Her mother, Jill, is on the phone with her from the family’s home in Pullman, Wash., as the whole scene unfolds, suddenly hearing her daughter yell, “No, no, no,” and then hearing … nothing. Painful silence.
Too, too cruel.
When parents send their kids off to college, to an opportunity for an advanced education and for the pursuit of a sport that their child has worked and excelled at for most of her life, as she grows into adulthood, they do not expect this. They do not have as a part of that hopeful, overarching vision the notion of mourning for and burying that child.
But some version of that, with varying details, has happened twice now in the past year at Utah.
Youth, with all of its bright promise, all of its energy and optimism, snuffed out in three blinks of an eye, in the sound of a few gunshots, fired from the hand of an individual with bad judgment and even worse intentions. One of those individuals goes to jail for the rest of his life, the other retreats to a church and shoots himself dead. And somewhere, parents and other loved ones of the victims cry as they deal with the pain.
Administrators shut down classes at the university on Tuesday, and offered counseling to students there.
They held a news conference, giving out information to reporters.
They issued statements.
They planned vigils.
Jill McCluskey sent out her own message via Twitter, which included the following:
“[Lauren] was an outstanding student majoring in Communication and was excited to graduate in 2019. She was a 2015 honors graduate of Pullman High School where she was Washington state champion in the high jump and the school record holder in the 100 meter hurdles.”
A tweet from Utah track and field read: “We are absolutely devastated about the loss of one of our own. Lauren McCluskey, we will miss you more than anyone could ever imagine. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family through this difficult time.”
Her bio on Utah’s sports website informs that she could run sprints, run hurdles, do the high and long jumps, put the shot, and pile up points in the pentathlon and heptathlon.
In other words, she was a great all-around athlete. She also was honorable mention Pac-12 All-Academic.
God only knows what she might have accomplished in all realms of her life, the joy she might have found, the happiness and friendship and comfort she might have offered, the fulfillment she might have felt, the heights she might have reached.
That’s part of the tragedy here, a book with only the first few chapters written and now, no ending, no ending that is suitable or imaginable.
Say a prayer, if that’s how you believe, then, for Lauren McCluskey. Or take a moment to think and send good thoughts. She’s left this existence and leaps now through the eternities. May she do so in peace.
As for the rest of us, we’re left to ponder and search for solutions as to how this sort of tragic story can be avoided in the future. What actions can be taken. One student-athlete at the university said he was more than shaken by the happenings. He was scared. Another student-athlete said she often walks past where the shooting occurred, never having given thought to such horrific possibilities.
If students are scared, parents are terrified.
Nobody wants to feel this kind of pain. Nobody wants to mourn. Nobody wants to bury a child. Nobody wants books to be left unwritten.
God bless Lauren McCluskey. God help the rest of us, as we look for ways to help ourselves.