Disclaimer: This isn't an entirely new post, but incorporates elements of a couple of posts I first put up half a decade ago. The originals may be found here and here.
While reading through my church's prayer list this morning, I noticed that one of our regular attendees who is in college was asking for prayer, especially as the anniversary of a fellow student's death in a car accident during spring break was approaching.
That got me to reflecting on my own spring breaks in college, which were often also unhappy. I don't think that it is an exaggeration to say that there was a time when the words "spring break" would strike fear into my heart. This is mostly due to two consecutive years of bad spring break experiences.
During my first year of college, I contracted "walking pneumonia." I didn't realize it for a while, because the "walking" part of that term basically meant that, although I was feeling pretty lousy, I could still get up and do stuff instead of being stuck on my back recovering like I should have been. This situation didn't become serious enough for me to realize I needed medical attention until spring break of that year. I was touring with a small singing group--one of those groups that sing Christian contemporary music for churches and other similar audiences--and I barely made it through the first performance. The director of the group took me to a clinic nearby, the diagnosis was made, and I had to call my parents to come pick me up from Tennessee to spend the rest of spring break recuperating from home. But that wasn't the end of it! By the end of that week, a blizzard had struck, stranding my fellow singers in a church in another part of Tennessee while I (now recovered) had to stay in Kentucky for a few extra days, unable to return to college because of the road conditions. As it turned out, I was able to meet up with my singing group halfway back to the college, after the roads had (mostly) cleared up, only to have our bus break down some 15 miles from the campus, requiring someone from our college town to come and rescue us, getting us the rest of the way home.
But as bad as that spring break was, the following year's spring break was even worse.
Although this was only my second year of college, I somehow became the Junior Class President mid-year. One particular controversy that hit shortly after I took office involved a radio station that came to the college for a promotional contest. They would give away a free trip to Florida for spring break. This was a "big deal" for a small conservative school like ours, for all the wrong reasons. There were a couple of people who strongly objected to such a "secular" prize being given away at our school to one of our students, as if to encourage drinking and the kind of debauchery often assumed to go on during spring breaks in Florida.
We debated the matter in student government, and Kim, one of my best friends—who happened to serve as the editor of the college's literary magazine—argued against having such contests at the college in the future. Most of the other student leaders (who, and take this for whatever it's worth, tended not to lean quite as conservative as the school as a whole) treated this suggestion with hostility and were very rude (whatever their politics, it was really far worse than it needed to be). I defended Kim's right to her opinion, and found myself on the wrong end of the other students' insults. It was an ugly meeting.
A couple of days later, I walked out of my dormitory building to find Kim's car plastered over with bumper stickers displaying the name of the radio station in question, and an empty bottle of wine on top of the car. I promptly took the stickers off of the car (thankfully, it was still early enough in the morning that there was a layer of dew all over the car, and the stickers had been very recently applied, so I was able to take the stickers off without damage to the car), and later told her what had happened. To the best of my recollection, the person who attempted to vandalize my friend's car was never caught.
Then came the break itself.
On Friday, shortly before we were to return to campus, Kim suffered from a brain aneurysm. By the following morning, she had passed away, almost one month to the day before she would have turned 21. I arrived back to campus the following evening to find another friend, who had been waiting for my return, coming to me to tell me the news.
Needless to say, I was devastated. One of my other friends told me a couple of months later, after I had laughed at a particularly funny joke he had told, that he was glad to see me smile, because he was afraid for a while that I might never smile again.
I'm sure that, for many people, spring break is a wonderful time. I'm certainly in favor of people having a chance to take some time off every now and then (although Fuller is about to have its version of "spring break"—basically just the week between Winter and Spring Quarters—next week, those of us on staff still have work to do). But I definitely find myself in sympathy with those who, for whatever reason, find it a time that reminds them of tragedy. For those of you do have fun things planned please, if not for yourselves, for the sake of the rest of us, be safe.