I don’t understand how anyone could grin all the time, but apparently she did …

Megan Baab

I attended a memorial service yesterday for some one that I did not know.  It was perhaps the first time in my life that I had ever done so.

My first touch of reality with this individual was an Avery County newspaper that I picked up on my way home for Christmas, at a gas convenience station at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.  In front of the cash register where I paid the clerk for my coffee was a grizzly and above-the-fold photograph of an accident scene replete with a stern looking state trooper in the foreground facing the photographer,  and in the background an overturned pickup truck across the center line, and a very visible racing bike frame lying on its side at the road’s shoulder.  It was a photograph that suggested the worse beyond sight distance.

I held the weekly unbelievingly in my hands and asked the clerk exactly where the accident occurred and was told that the scene was only a few miles away on our route to Asheville.  I remarked out loud “How tragic”, which invited a full spectrum of comments from the locals standing at the counter with me.

My wife and I stopped at the location and recreated in our minds what must have transpired on this highway only a week before.  A curve in a cut with high banks and a gentle downhill that Megan  would have encountered on her approach to the curve.  It was a hill that would have filled any cyclist’s heart with joy as she would not be pedaling and would be headed home to the barn.

The ceremony was what one might expect in an environment of remorse and expected celebration for loss of a young life – a college president who was dutifully bound to create a platform  of comfort for a service that was tribute to its students and surrounding community, brave parents who traveled all the way from Texas to bring closure to this chapter in their lives, community leaders who arrived to offer the campus support, fellow-students and teammates and even those who did not know her who offered testimony about her attributes and values , the investigating officer and first responders who attended to offer the family their condolences, and faculty and other administrators who served as mentors for the budding new phase of life for this young adult.

The backdrop for this day as I listened to NPR on my drive to Banner Elk was the documentation that four members of the United States Marine Core had urinated on the slain bodies of Afghan militants and a summary review of the vitriolic and accusatory  rhetoric  by the Republican candidates for President.

I was certain that the impending ceremony would be filled with compassion and bring me some solace from news of contemporary events, at least temporarily.

There are some ironies to this life episode because there are other victims who were not present.  One was the Appalachian State University student, 19 years old – the same age as Megan – who admitted falling asleep at the wheel after his exams, crossed the center line, and extinguished her life; and the second, is the president of Appalachian State University who would be the heartbeat and natural spokesman for the students and members of his academic community who must certainly feel the pain of having lost a student, eventhough it was not his, but an incident which involved his.  He has an aspiring college cycling team, and a student body who will readily identify with Lees-McRae because of geographic proximity.

My wife and I are particularly proud of what we observe in the culture of the Lees-McRae students.  Their innate compassion for each other is not derived from remorse but a genuine positive regard for each other in action, gesture, and speech.

Perhaps some of these students will become Marines or presidential candidates, and perhaps this is the purpose in life that Megan Baab gave to others.

2 Responses to “I don’t understand how anyone could grin all the time, but apparently she did …”

  1. Marcy (Megan Baab's Mom) says:

    I goggle Megan’s name most nights as it brings me comfort most nights to know there were so many individuals that my youngest daughter touched. I am not sure how I missed your posting. I do know however that your words brought me comfort as my daughter once again touched someone who she did not even know.

    Thank you.

    • Houck Medford says:

      Thank you, Marcy. I recall vividly from the memorial service the number of students who offered testimony about Megan’s friendliness and the fact that she spoke to everyone, whether she knew them or not. She touched many people in a very nice way.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Houck Medford

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