Monday, May 4, 2009

A Prayer Request AND a Rant

First, I'd like to ask for prayers for a friend's family. His completely healthy father had a stroke, out of nowhere this weekend. He's on life support, with minimal brain function, and they're planning on disconnecting the machines as soon as they've arranged organ donation. So I'd like your prayers that they get through this time as best they can.

Second, they're Jewish. I'm not sure whether I'll be going to the services - depends on whether he wants us to make the trip, and if he does I'll go - but in case I do: Does anyone know anything about proper behavior at a Jewish funeral and/or when families are sitting shiva?

Third, coincidences.

-Morbidly ironic coincidence: This friend was the freshman year roommate of the friend whose mother had an aneurysm just two weeks ago (She is still facing serious problems, but continues to do better than she was expected to.) Bad week for the vascular health of the families of that dormroom, huh?

-More than coincidence: At church last night - not two hours before I heard the news - the priest (a priest whom I've noticed has a particular gift for saying exactly what I need to hear), in the course of his rather long but very good homily, used the phrase, "We're all just one phone call away from being brought to our knees." He was referring to that unexpected, unwelcome news that changes everything. "Too true right now," another friend said when I mentioned it.

And fourth, a rant. I have 1 final to take on Tuesday, and a paper due Friday. I e-mailed both professors explaining the situation and the fact that while I still very much don't know what's going on or what will happen when over the course of the next week, there's a strong possibility that I'll have to travel out of town for the funeral of a close friend's father, and if it's a conflict, would it be okay if I asked to make up the exam at another time/have an extension on the paper?

The professor whose class I have a test for said sure, we could reschedule the test as long as it was within a few days. This fits with the caring and human attitude of every professor I've ever approached with a situation like this.

(A friend's mother died during mid-terms last year, and we - 11 or 12 students - were able to drop everything and travel to her funeral. Every professor we approached understanding and flexible. My grandfather died during finals the next semester, and I handed in one of my last papers shorter than it should have been, unpolished, and with no conclusion. I wasn't going to say anything, because, as it happens, I found out my grandfather had died only two hours before the paper was due. I shouldn't have left it until that late, anyway. But a friend explained the situation without my knowledge, and the professor was very kind and accepted it as it was.)

The other professor responded that extensions are only applicable to students whose relatives have died, so no, I could not have an extension. Let's be clear. I wasn't asking for an extension because I was so grief-stricken about the death of this very nice man I've met half a dozen times. I was asking for an extension to allow me to travel up the East Coast so that I could support a friend who is grieving his father. Just to make the demands on me slightly less burdensome, because the 3 days that I had planned to spend writing papers were now likely to be spend making a round trip to New England. So that I could be a decent human being and fulfill the basic duties of friendship. Surely even a history professor must realize that comforting those in mourning is more important than a 15-20 page historiographic essay. We've even talked in this class about how the ideal profession is one which allows us to do some good and make the world a better place. How, pray tell, does a professor believe he is fulfilling that by insisting that students get no latitude to put human beings before graded papers?

Of course, my initial reaction to his response was a little less elegant, and a little more along the lines of "What an @$$!"

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