Published: Monday, November 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
This column isn’t going to be light reading. It’s going to affect you. It’s not just going to make you think—it’s going to make you feel. And that’s because grief cannot be wholly rationalized. Grief is not a matter of intellect. It’s visceral. Grief has gravity, and while it fluctuates in intensity, you are forever bound by its orbit. Grief is not always sorrow and it’s not always pain, but it is the burden you must willingly carry for lives that you and our world have lost. Grief is a badge, and it’s inextricably human. It’s our condition, and it’s our duty.
I’ve been writing this column ineffectually in my head for what will, in nine days from when this is published, be one year. I’m still not certain that I can do the justice that I’d like to. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the words to humbly and adequately honor a life lost. On Nov. 14, 2011, our friend, our teammate, a brilliant soul in our Boston College community—
Michael Racanelli—passed from this life.
As far as I’m concerned, the circumstances of Rac’s death aren’t worth lingering on or agonizing over. When we lose someone so young, so tragically, and so abruptly, we selfishly burn for answers of our own. We withdraw to an inescapable narcissism, sourced from a well of vulnerability and pain. We crave explanation, rationale—any semblance of reality or fantasy that can help us to feel more secure in our own existence. We need distance—some buffer between what we know as our self, and this other person who has fallen victim to the inevitability that awaits each individual human being.
I believe, however, that our need to reconcile the irrational serves an injustice to those we have lost, those who we cared so deeply for in their lifetimes, and continue to carry in their absence. On this, the near anniversary of my friend Michael Racanelli’s death, I don’t aim only to be elegiac—I’d like to pay tribute. I’d like to celebrate a life that was as beautiful as any I have ever known.
I share my personal experience, but I’m sure I speak for many of you when I say that Rac’s death was a fissure in the very fabric that held together my existence. It was unfathomable—it left an irreconcilable void. I sat at a restaurant on the other side of the world that day when the news reached me on Facebook. It was a cruel and lifeless way to receive such a devastating blow. On the Internet, all information is as sterile and distant as you choose it to be. And for much of that first day, I could not believe, would not believe, what my laptop screen was telling me.
This of course was but vain denial on my part, and I eventually had to accept reality. But that reality was always nebulous to me. I had nothing concrete, no visual, visceral evidence of what had happened—and I never would. Rac’s death will forever be an event that passed across my horizon, but never stopped to pick me up along the way. I was left to chase it in its wake, with hopes that I could someday come to terms with that which never felt real.
Forever chasing is a hopeless and daunting endeavor. It can suck the lifeblood out of you, relegate you to the doldrums of being. At a certain point, we can only accept the irrational. We must cease any attempt to conquer it. In doing so, we can channel our attention towards that which we can see, that which, even if we can’t understand, we can feel.
Life is rare and precious. I don’t only mean this with respect to our own lives, but to all the lives that surround us. No matter how deep our relationships are, or how tangential they might be, each and every life we encounter bears significance on our being.
I only met Rac freshman year, though our families had longstanding ties. Despite the relative brevity of our friendship, his death will hold an incalculable weight on the rest of my existence. I have thought about him almost every day for the last year, in waking hours and behind the veil of sleep, and I’ll continue to do so.
I’ve realized that in only two short years, no moment was inconsequential with Michael Racanelli. Each smile, each laugh, each banal conversation, all the shared stories, and even the lacrosse balls thrown and caught on the field have meaning. I will carry these moments with me forever. Rac’s spirit was so bright that it will burn eternally.
I don’t just carry these moments for myself. They aren’t locked deep in the vaults of memory. I carry them for Michael Racanelli because held in those moments are his life. I don’t carry him alone. All those who knew and loved him carry him just the same. In part, it’s the people in our lives who make us who we are. We owe them our gratitude, and we owe them our respect.
Rac will always be there in my moments of quirkiness. He’ll be there when I trip and fall because my feet are moving too fast for my own body. He’ll be there in laughter. He’ll be there when I’m wide awake in the hours before dawn, and he’ll be there each and every time I’m at BC or in Bayshore, N.Y. It’s in these times that I give him to you, that I share him with the world. I urge you to do the same with all those you’ve lost and with all those still living. Life is irrevocably complicated but must be celebrated for all its complications. Celebrate life because you own it, for in no moment of pain is there not also a world of beauty.