Every day, someone dies. Someone's cousin, brother, best friend, parent, or coworker dies. Some might say that death is inevitable. But does that change the way we feel whenever we get the news that someone we know and love has died? I don't think that any of us can really wrap our minds around why bad things happen to good people, and why God takes those we love from us sooner than we would have hoped. But some things aren't meant for us to fully comprehend.
This past weekend, I got a better understanding of how God knows exactly what he is doing and that he always has a plan. This past weekend, my college community and my home community were shattered. A friend of my older brother was senselessly murdered, about 30 feet from my front door. He was not only my friend's brother, but he was a Phi Delta fraternity member, Bulldog Burger employee, his parents' son, my next door neighbor, and a good person. While I could not imagine what his family is enduring right now and over the days and weeks to come, I do know that God is with his family. I could not imagine life without my brothers, and I hope that I never have to live without them. But I know that if his family can make sense of this tragedy, they can handle just about anything that life throws at them. I don't think that God's plan for Joseph was to be killed at 21 years old with his whole life ahead of him. I think that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think that Joseph's family knows what true pain and heartache is and they will be stronger people for that.
"Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it." - Haruki Murakami
To me, Joseph was just the guy that I passed sometimes walking to class who always had the cool Ray Bans, the waiter serving the people at the restaurant down the street, and my friend's older brother. But now, to me, he is the guy who didn't get to live his life to the fullest for no reason. He's the guy who died at 21 because that's how cruel the world we live in is. He's the guy whose family will have to learn how to go through life without him in it. But just because he died doesn't mean his story doesn't live on.
Our college community is suffering the loss of a roommate, a bright student, a classmate, a coworker, a neighbor, a fraternity brother, and a friendly face. Our home community is suffering the loss of a brother, a high school buddy, a son, a cousin, and a genuine person. The fact that this happened so close to me makes it even more surreal, in a way.
Every day, we go through life making plans of what we are going to do when we get out of school. We are saddened when we hear of classmates and friends dying throughout the years, but do we ever really think that we could be those people? My friends and I had planned to go to the house right across the street from where Joseph died. Before we left, my friend wanted to charge her phone for a few minutes. Shortly after we sat on my couch, we heard the gunshot. Had her phone not died, we could have been too close. I know that God has a reason for everything, and this was an apparent example.
I did not know Joseph Tillman, but I know that he has impacted my life and the lives of many other people in our communities. Whether it be by his life or death, Joseph teaches us to appreciate life and all of its moments, because life is a precious gift that can't be replaced once it's gone.
In loving memory of Joseph Tillman (1995-2016).