In my life I’ve been privileged enough to know the feeling of true community. To know what it is like to be cared for, to be loved, to be accepted, respected, and valued and all of these things are thanks to the people I met at Merrimack College.
Growing up I was part of a couple different communities. I was fairly involved so I had school, I had family, I had faith, and I had sports. And while some of those intersected, none were the same as the one before or the one to follow. And over time I learned which communities were real, and which ones were forced. I learned who to lean on, and who to keep distance from – though I am still working on the latter.
But of all the things I did and all the people I was, I don’t think my life really started until after I turned 18. Until after I went away and found a different kind of home and a different kind of community.
We laugh so we don’t cry
I think the funniest thing about my experiences on college campuses, both before and after I enrolled in one, was that, for the first time in my life, all those speeches about community and supporting each other weren’t just talk anymore. And I say it’s funny because while I hoped that would be the case, I didn’t allow myself to truly accept it until it happened. But, lucky for me, it happened almost immediately.
Now I know a lot of people that will speak of their college experience this way. They’ll talk about the institution that raised them, they’ll note how it was both perfect and imperfect and they’ll smile as they recall nights in the quad or the caf. They’ll claim that those were some of the best moments of their lives and the truth is, for them, they probably were. And I’m not here to discount that experience because I’m not really here to talk about college or institutions or compete on who had it best. What I am here to do, is talk about one person – Kevin.
If I’m being honest, and I usually am, I don’t remember the first time I met Kevin Salemme, and honestly I don’t remember the last time I saw him either. In fact, as close as I was to Kevin, I didn’t even know he was sick until recently, but I suppose that’s how life goes. We get distracted in our own things. We weather pandemics and heartbreaks and god knows what else. And at times we take peoples presence for granted because in our minds, some people are so much larger than life that the notion of anything happening to them between visits is inconceivable.
So what do we do when the inconceivable happens?
(That question of course is a rhetorical one but it also provides a proper page break for a little but possibly relatable tangent)
If it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be worth it
As we grow up we all experience our share of losses, but as someone who lost a lot more than she was “supposed to” at an age far before she was “supposed to” one of my largest pet peeves is the vultures. You know, the people who interject opinions on people they barely knew, the ones who claim to be so distraught over the loss of someone when that someone is so massively insignificant to their lives. The people that do it for attention because heaven forbid someone else be able to experience their pain in a supportive and validated way. And my point of saying this isn’t what you might think because usually when someone says they can sniff out phony grief they have a name or a direction or finger to point, but when it comes to this, the point is that I don’t. Because when it comes to this there isn’t a single person that I know who wasn’t positively and undoubtably affected by Kevin Salemme. Which is easily the greatest testament to who he was because he didn’t have phony relationships with any of us and because even if he had wanted to, it wasn’t his way.
When WE lose someone
This week, my community suffered a loss. It wasn’t the first, it won’t be the last but for more than a handful of us it is and will be one of the hardest.
When it comes to loss and the effect some people have on our lives there’s a lot of cheesy rhetoric around how much impact certain people had on us. So when they die we become these like hallmark versions of ourselves and we develop these long winded and emotional monologues where we quote wicked songs and it always ends with something along the lines of “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having them in my life” and look, I get it, I’m not one to tell you you’re wrong, because I have 100% done that and I 100% feel that this week, but to honor someone like Kevin properly, well I don’t yet know how to put that into words. And that’s okay.
But of all the things I don’t know and of all the answers I wish I had, I do know one thing and that thing is that I am grateful. I am grateful for my community, I’m grateful for my friends, I’m grateful to not shoulder any grief alone, and I’m grateful for Kevin – because, let’s be honest, I (and WE) will never receive those kind of quality – pimple and hair whisp free kind of headshots again. And because, let’s be honest, there probably won’t be someone exactly like him ever again.
So here’s to Kevin – the man, the myth, the legend. And here’s to the hope that we may one day meet again.