“The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18
This week was one of the most unexpected and life-changing weeks I have ever experienced. On Wednesday morning, the Union community was made aware of the horrible news that Olivia Greenlee, one of our very own students and my fellow music major, had left this world. As I received the news little by little, I became more and more confused and speechless. What was going on? Was this for real? Why Olivia? How should I respond? I did not know where to go, so I went to one place I knew I would find comfort…I went to the music building. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had that thought.
The music department gathered together in Hartley Hall where Dr. Mathews (music department chair) briefed us on what had happened. He read to us the Scripture that I prefaced this post with, which has been the Scripture I have gone back to many times in the last three days. We all sat there and mourned while we tried to comfort each other, all of us still so confused as to why this happened. It was about this time that I became aware of just how great my school is.
First, Dr. Musselman (theory/composition professor) offered to drive anyone home within three hours of Union. Next, Dr. McClune (clarinet/woodwind professor) offered to buy lunch for anyone who showed up at Burrito Meal. I decided to go home that night, so after church, I drove on home to spend time with mom, dad, and Natalie. Late that evening, Dr. Mathews emailed our department trying to give us comfort in that wake of this horrendous tragedy. I woke up that next morning to an email from Dr. Mathews letting me know of an impromptu department-wide lunch for all of us to just be together. Before I even left, Dr. Mathews called me to just how I was doing. Not 5 minutes later, Dr. Bedsole (my advisor and the MusEd coordinator) called and asked the same thing. Once I got to Jennings, we prayed, sang, ate, and laughed together. ResLife surprised us with two therapy dogs to lighten the air.
Yesterday, a service of scripture reading and prayer was held in Olivia’s memory in the chapel. Singers were asked to sing for it and we sang an arrangement of “He Hideth My Soul,” one of our pieces from the fall semester. Tori Brooks (a fellow Singer) and Hope Lewis, two dear Zeta friends of mine, read two Psalm passages that were perfectly fitting for the moment. We also were prayed over by President David Dockery, Provost Carla Sanderson, and Dean Bryan Carrier. Dr. Todd Brady, overseer of university ministries, gave us some reassuring remarks. “As we move into this weekend together, as we move into this semester together and as we move into the rest of our days, let us continue our turning to God and our turning to one another,” Brady said. “God has given us himself, and he has given us one another. In the midst of our grief, let us turn to these gifts from God.”
I have nothing but stunned at how absolutely priceless Union University is. While I have never doubted my decision to attend there, the leadership, comfort, prayer, guidance, and availability this week has solidified that decision more than ever. When folks ask me why my family pays all the money we do for me to go here, I tell them that it’s worth every cent. And you can’t exactly know where I’m coming from unless you experience it firsthand.
Tomorrow, Singers will join with the Greenlee family and friends to celebrate Olivia’s life at FBC Dyersburg. We will sing another song from this past fall that perfectly fits the occasion. I have said it once and I’ll say it again: “She is already singing her heart out up there just waiting for the rest of us Singers to catch up with her one day.”