Ten years ago today, my friend, Shannon Mallard, died in an automobile accident. Shannon was one of those good people, universally loved for his friendly demeanor and willingness to listen. I can still hear his raspy voice saying “Good morning!” as I walked past his office and his loud laugh as he joked with his peers.
We spent a lot of time playing racquetball the last year of his life. Apparently, I was a better teacher than player, because he quickly started beating me on a regular basis. What made those times special, though, were the water breaks, when we would shoot the breeze about our childhoods, departmental gossip, history, and life in general.
Those games came to an end in the Fall 2003 semester, as he and his wife, Jennifer, had their first child that summer. The last few times we spoke, it was about the changes that parenthood brought: the lack of sleep, the diaper changes, the joy of holding your child.
When I finished my dissertation in 2002, I asked Shannon if I could borrow his printer to make my copies to deposit in the university library and the history department. At nearly 500 pp. each, it took most of the morning. As always, we talked about a number of different things. The one thing that stuck out in my mind was an essay that Shannon shared by Robert J. Hastings entitled “The Station.” I encourage you to read the entire essay, but these lines continue to stick with me:
Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.
Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
Shannon died too young. I say that not because his was the beginning of a promising career, but because he was at the beginning of a lifetime that should have included living to old age with his wife; seeing their son (and maybe other children) grow up; and spreading the happiness that his life brought to people around him.
I have a copy of “The Station” stored with other memories of Shannon that I’ve kept. I read it occasionally to remind me that life is fleeting and that our lives here are meant to be fully lived.