How Mental Health Affects the Chapter


I can’t describes how I felt that night.

The speed with which the news of Garrett Elder’s death spread meant that for a short time I was surrounded by those who were emotionally destroyed and others who remained blissfully ignorant.

I remember my bewilderment. In a matter of seconds, the innocence and bliss I carried into college were stripped away. In a matter of seconds, the world stopped for me and 35 other men.

I can picture all the people who were at our chapter house that night — I can remember what they told me, the questions they asked and the people they were with. I can also remember that I had never been more grateful to be surrounded by a caring and supportive group of people.

I don’t have the right to speak for Garrett, but I remember him well. I wasn’t the closest brother to him, but I know he made an impact on me. As crazy as it now sounds, I didn’t realize this fact until he was gone. I looked up to him, despite the fact he was two years younger than me.

Until the moment I heard the news, my college experience had been all about me. I came to the University of New Mexico to educate myself, get myself a job, and to prepare myself for life.  But that night, nothing was about me.

People are all that matter. In the following days, this truth would become apparent. Together, our chapter spent time reminiscing and focusing on the good memories we shared with Garrett, and worked to honor the person who had impacted us all so much. Our individual, petty concerns became irrelevant; we lived in the moment, concerned not with ourselves but with those around us.

When the moment finally came for Garrett’s mother, Rhonda, to arrive in town, time stood still. We didn’t know what to say, how to act or what to do. In the end, all we had to do was convey one thing to her: We loved her son. This part was easier than expected, because we all unequivocally did.

In the years since Garrett’s death, I have come to understand the immense capacity humans have to affect each other, and how our actions can have lasting consequences for our loved ones. But there is no silver lining to any lesson I may have learned through this tragedy — the loss remains too great, and the void in all our hearts too huge.

Ultimately, life is about love, and love is the easiest way to make an impact. I will never underestimate the power small demonstrations of love can have ever again — The greetings, pats on the back and small talks on the porch. It’s the little things all added-up that have made the largest difference in my life. People are all that matter, and everyone deserves love. My realization of this was forged in tragedy, but it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone.

It is easy to think I might have seen this entire thing coming. I wish I had.