“Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.” (Psalm 23:4)
In October 2010, the Notre Dame football team was practicing, getting ready for the big game. Like every other week, Junior student Declan Sullivan was atop a fifty-foot scissor lift, shooting video of the team’s practice. This particular day was different, winds in the area were up to sixty miles per hour. Declan tweeted, “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph. Well today will be fun at work. I guess I've lived long enough." Sadly, soon after another gust of wind came up and the lift toppled over. Declan died in the crash.
News of the incident ran across the news outlets. Lawyers were calling the grieving family almost immediately. Declan’s whole family are faithful Roman Catholics and dedicated Notre Dame fans. Declan was the oldest of the three children, all committed to the University. His mother and father had some serious legal decisions to consider. It became obvious that Notre Dame had serious liability issues, allowing one of their student’s to remain in that lift, with winds gusting that high.
Amidst their grief, anger, and sorrow, Declan’s mother and father prayed and then decided that no one wanted Declan to die. The University made a terrible mistake, but they decided it was just that - a mistake. His father said that Declan’s death should not be about winning the lottery. People were stating the Sullivan’s could expect to receive at least 30 million dollars from a law suit. Declan’s family decided to focus Declan’s memory on positive activities, rather than legal vengeance. They forgave the University, remained in the Notre Dame University family, and began a process of healing.
The Sullivan’s allowed the team and the school to mourn Declan’s death. They started the Declan Sullivan Memorial Fund, that has raised millions of dollars for non-profits in the Chicago area that support children’s education and community service. One of the programs is entitled, “Horizon’s For Life,” which includes helping children reach their full potential. Each year the group of Declan’s kids has grown. This year alone, 90 children are part of the program. They call themselves, “Declan’s 90.”
This is a story of forgiveness and healing. Today, think about the resentments you’ve experienced in your life. Have you fully healed? Put yourself in the Sullivan family’s shoes. Imagine the temptations and emotions they endured. How might you have responded? What might God have expected from them? Answering these questions will help each of us determine what our faith expects from us. Finally, continue to pray for the Sullivan family and their ministry, in Declan’s name.