Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Gifts of Sorrow

Dear colleagues in mission,

It is an understatement to say that these past few weeks have been difficult for our community as we have dealt with the loss of our dear friend and University co-founder, Dr. William A. Mitchell, Jr. Bill’s heart was big enough to encompass what Dr. Bastyr called “the truth of the medicine” and still have room for each of us as well. Somehow, his unconditional love of us and his passion to explore all that is unknown pulled us to a place where we could see things more clearly. His immense curiosity and his inclination to dig deep into diverse and unpredictable things worked to make him unusually attractive to all of us. We were literally drawn to him and we were fortunate to have fallen under his influence. He had such an ample mind and such a modest estimation of it. In him were greatness and humility uniquely combined. May we learn from his example.

While we were mourning Dr. Mitchell’s passing, we sustained another tragic loss. Autumn Sansom’s death struck us like a knife, taking from our corporate bosom one whose bright promise as a physician was unfulfilled but who, in her short time among us, blessed us with her intelligence, her smile, her optimism, her passion for life and her confidence in its potential. In a remarkable way, Autumn was like Dr. Mitchell in her capacity to explore, question, love deeply and pull us together.

In these weeks, as I have witnessed our community in mourning, I have come to appreciate one of our great strengths. I affirm that we are a nurturing community. I have seen faculty, students and staff huddled together holding each other as you wept. I have heard your poems, prayers and songs. I have seen extraordinary acts of kindness extended as gestures of comfort—flowers strewn, cookies baked, tired shoulders caressed, silence respected and tears dried by the kisses of Autumn’s dog. I believe that, however reluctantly in our sorrow, we are gratefully accepting the gifts given us by Bill Mitchell and Autumn Sansom. I am proud of you and optimistic about our future because of who you are and who we can yet become.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Daniel K. Church
President, Bastyr University