Drawing meaning from tragedy

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Campus was in complete shock when 18-year-old Wilfrid Laurier University student Jonah Lowy died in residence on Oct. 27.

The first-year health science student passed away in his sleep at King’s Court residence due to a medical condition, leaving many reeling over the loss. By Monday afternoon, Rabbi Moshe Goldman of the Rohr Chabad Centre for Jewish Life had planned a memorial for Lowy to take place that evening. Around 150 people showed up to mourn and commemorate his life.

“The place was absolutely packed … we’ve never had such a big crowd for any event, period,” Goldman said.

Goldman felt as if the Jewish community could not wait until after the funeral to gather and mourn the loss of one of their own.

“Honestly, people were in such shock and people were so shaken up that we felt that it wouldn’t be prudent to wait. We just needed to do something for everyone’s sake,” he said. “It wasn’t so much about paying tribute and paying respect to Jonah, it was just everybody needed to meet together, to mourn together. People were just so shaken up.”

Fifth-year student Zack Stern worked an Emergency Response Team shift with Lowy just two days before he died. On Thursday, Stern and several ERT executives attended Lowy’s funeral service in Toronto. A bus from Laurier carried Lowy’s floor mates and dons, among others, to the service. There were around 250 people in attendance.

“It was definitely very somber to see so many people Jonah’s life had touched in some way or another, so many people Jonah knew,” he said.

“He knew people from Laurier, he knew people he played hockey with — he knew tons of other people through his work as a lifeguard. It just shows how his life came to be in 18 short years.”

Stern emphasized Lowy’s desire to help others — one of the reasons he was on ERT.

“He was very giving, he always wanted to give back, very protective of his family, friends and his sister especially. He was overall a pretty great guy.”

He learned through Lowy’s parents that he wanted to go into the medical field in order to help others after his time at Laurier.

“He wanted to go to med school. He was hoping to become a doctor, researcher — he was in health science for a reason.”

On the night of the memorial, Goldman told the group to remember an important teaching of Judaism — a teaching all students, whether

Jewish or not, should remember if they are struggling with loss.

“When tragedy strikes, people need to do their best to draw a lesson or some meaning from it … to live life and go on as if nothing happened is not brave, it’s cruel,” he said.

“Something must change in our lives as a result of this — something for the better, some positive thing has to come out of this because otherwise this whole tragedy has been basically in vain and no positive has come out of it.”

“His life was for purpose,” Stern said.

Goldman urged students who are struggling with Lowy’s death to reach out and seek help from professionals on campus or friends.

“It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be depressed or confused … we don’t want them to feel like they’re crazy for feeling those things,” he continued. “It’s a terrible tragedy that many adults don’t go through, let alone first-year students at university, to lose a friend. It’s an out of the ordinary, extraordinarily sad experience.”

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