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Michelle Turnberg, Published February 24 2012

Turnberg: Tragedies change our lives forever

Heartbreak.

Tragedy.

Unthinkable.

Those are the words that come to me when I try to wrap my mind around Monday’s devastating crash that killed four North Dakota State University freshmen.

I didn’t know any of the young women, but their story has affected me, and undoubtedly many of you, in a profound way.

They were returning to college from home, concluding a holiday weekend with their families and friends, when their lives were cut short.

I can’t count the number of times my college friends and I made that trip. The shock of the event has shaken us all and has many of us hugging our children a little tighter and re-telling those we love how we feel about them.

When I was in college, I experienced a calamity that saddens me to this day. My boyfriend was killed, also tragically and unexpectedly.

Words cannot express the emotions and anguish I felt, and the event unquestionably changed me forever. To this day, goodbyes are difficult and usually drawn out, as I have a deep understanding of the fragility and uncertainty of tomorrow.

As I grow I’ve tried to be more assertive in letting people know their significance and influence to my life. It’s important to me to recognize the people I care so much about and express my feelings for them.

The boyfriend of one of the young women posted a picture on Facebook of all four with the caption: “Heaven needed four beautiful angels. Rest in Peace Danielle, Lauren, Megan and Jordan.”

It’s hard not to look at the picture without crying, each student so full of promise, hope and smiles. My heart aches for their parents, friends and family members who are forced to deal with the horrible pain of their losses.

Tragedy changes lives forever, and though there is little immediate comfort to offer, the pain will ease. With God’s limitless grace and the passage of time, our memories will one day bring a smile.

Mary Elizabeth Frye wrote a beautiful poem that I have reread many times. It helped me through the loss of a loved one and reminds me of how even after they are gone, they stay with us forever.

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays.