Tragically in the early hours of Dec. 11, Michael-LarsonUniversity of St. Thomas student Michael Larson lost his life in a house fire about six blocks from campus.

That evening in a packed Florance Chapel, I attended a prayer service conducted by our director of Campus Ministry, Father Erich Rutten, for Michael’s family, friends and classmates. Father Rutten invited Michael’s friends to share their reflections on this young life that had ended so abruptly.

“Carson,” as his friends called him, was a diehard Twins fan (and he “hated the Yankees”). He seemed to wear a perpetual smile that was for many a daily uplift. He had his own opinions, but he was unusual in the respect he showed to those with a differing viewpoint – an example of student civility. His life goal was to become a sportscaster.

It is hard to lose a friend or loved one, and doubly so when that individual is just setting out on life’s journey.

The rightful Christian response to death, even of one so young, is to give thanks for that person’s life – a gift from God, and in some way, revealing something of God’s nature.

I was filled with gratitude Saturday night as I listened to the reflections of student after student on the qualities that made Carson a person who people could and did love. Clearly Carson had made an impact on many, and was an uplifting presence in their lives.

I felt grateful, too, for the many friends whose friendship so clearly supported Carson in life, and that they now filled the Florance Chapel to give thanks for the countless ways in which he sustained them. Certainly the most moving moment was when one of his housemates stood up and declared, “I would not be standing here tonight, were it not for Carson.”

In the end, I found myself grateful for Carson, for his friends, for his consistent civility and for the heroism with which his life ended.

The Judaeo-Christian wisdom tradition teaches that in death, life is changed, not ended. We give thanks for the life of Michael “Carson” Larson, and that the wonderful thing about human life is that it goes on forever.