in memoriam

Last semester, Dr. Lundin, a professor of mine died unexpectedly. I deeply admired Dr. Lundin and I want to honor him by sharing my memories of him with you. 

I first met Dr. Lundin at a literature conference in Wheaton.  I can’t remember the subject of his talk anymore, but I do remember his voice—the way it rose and fell. I remember how he cradled the text—how he loved the words as he spoke them.

I had never heard anyone read like that before and I thought I need to take a class with this man just so I can listen to him read.

So I took Early American Lit the first semester of my sophomore year. I looked forward to every class period when he would pace up and down the aisle, looking intently into each student’s eyes. He brought a magical energy into the classroom and I was in awe.

During the semester I was in Dr. Lundin’s class, I was very close to a friend who struggled with depression. That October, my friend had spiraled into a frightening flirtation with suicide. I felt trapped by a sense of responsibility to keep him alive and I lived with a crippling anxiety that one morning I would wake up and he would be dead.

It was during this traumatic season that our class read Whitman’s poem “Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking.” In the poem, death is lovely dark and deep. It laves over Whitman like the incoming ocean waves. I couldn’t help but think of my friend and the magnetism that death exerted over him in moments of overwhelming pain.

So when it came time to write papers, I wrote on Whitman and death. I scheduled office hours with Dr. Lundin, thinking he might give me some research pointers. At the end of our meeting, I mentioned the reason I had chosen the poem. Dr. Lundin was concerned for me and for my friend and promised to pray for us. When he passed back our final papers several weeks later, he told me he’d been praying for both of us by name.

Because Dr. Lundin had spoken freely about his own experience of depression in our class, I decided to meet with him again the following semester. I remember that after I signed up for his office hours, he emailed me to let me know he had written my name in for an extra slot so we would have enough time to chat.

I was so fragile when I walked into his office that day. Though my friend had reached a place of psychological stability, I was still reeling with the trauma of what might have happened. It meant so much to me to know that Dr. Lundin—this brilliant, kind, effective professor—had struggled with depression, had made it out, and was living a meaningful and productive life. I wanted to know how he got there.

He prayed for me and shared details more of his personal story. I don’t remember all the things he shared (my memory isn’t nearly as good as his), but I remember that my spirit was deeply encouraged by the care and kindness that he gifted to me in that conversation.

His memory will always be an example to me of the kindness that I hope to inhabit. His vulnerability was a powerful witness to God’s faithfulness amidst human weakness. And I’ll always treasure the beautiful way that he read, the rise and fall of his voice—his love for the text.

.~.~.~.

If you’d like to hear his magical voice, you can watch this chapel talk he gave at the Wheaton grad school in 2011.

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