By Alexander Kennedy
Loss is something that we all have to go through in life. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you will experience it. Loss can be a devastating unifier. In the two events held for Patrick Donaghue on Sept. 25 — the staff-led community meeting and the student led gathering in the Campus Center — this unity was palpable.
Early morning on Sept. 25, 2018, Patrick “Pat” Donaghue died at Maine Medical Center with his parents and loved ones by his side. He passed from his injuries, which were the result of a car accident he was in the night before.
Later that day, two events were held in celebration of his life. In Surfsite Residence Hall, where Pat had lived, Residence Life staff asked students to join them for a community meeting where there could process this tragedy together. Students were welcome to share stories and speak with counselors provided by Mobile Crisis. Anne Greisinger and Bruce Trask, the chaplins who staff and maintain the All Faiths Chapel on campus, were also present to help students grieve.
The students who attended spoke of Pat’s humor, his quirkiness, and his ability to be in the moment. Fellow Automotive students attested to Pat’s intelligence in the classroom and his love of cars. Even students who did not know him well spoke of his passion for automotives and his constant happiness. Many of his friends agreed he had a smile that wouldn’t quit. They also admired how great of a dog dad he was to his blue-eyed husky.
The students spoke with a somber tone that was sometimes marked with laughter or periods of silence.
While experiencing their own sadness, a few students took the opportunity to talk about ways they cope with loss in an effort to help others. They told each other to stay connected to your community, to take care of your basic needs like food and water, and that whatever emotions you are feeling, it’s okay.
The Residence Life staff said the faculty are aware of what they are going through and would be mindful of students’ needs in regard to attendance and classwork. The RAs present let their fellow students know that if there is something they think would help the community, let them know and they can work to organize an event or whatever it may be.
At the student-run event in the Campus Center, it was a different feeling. Students were smiling, crying, and laughing all at the same time. Six pizzas ordered by the students were left untouched as memories were shared and messages of adoration for Pat were written on a poster.
Some students spoke of his funny side and the pranks he liked to pull. One said Pat was “the most considerate guy” he had ever met. One friend told the story of losing Pat in Hannaford for a half hour. Another recalled the first time she met Pat. A mutual friend asked him to give her a ride home and he was so excited to get in his car and go for a drive.
Loss can be a unifier. The students in attendance at both of these events were united in their support of each other and their love for Pat and his humor, happiness and constant smile.
From Tiffanie Bentley, Dean of Students: SMCC students can contact grief counseling services by dialing 211 or by going online at http://www.211maine.org. Maine’s 24-hour Crisis Hotline can be accessed at 1-888-568-1112. If students need assistance with this or with anything else, the Student Life staff are available during business hours to help or to assist in connecting students to appropriate resources. Call 741-5967 or stop by 125 Spring Point Hall. Anne Greisinger and Bruce Trask, the All Faiths Chapel chaplains, provide non-denominational support to students. You can find them at the Chapel on campus Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.