A Tribute to a Man who Influenced Hearts from Students to World Leaders: Father Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C.

For anyone who was intrigued by this man and doesn't know him, he is a legend. He not only impacted the Civil Rights Movement and changed the course of history for the University of Notre Dame, he has graced the cover of Time magazine, carried the Olympic torch, and received the Medal of Freedom; the nation's highest civilian honor from Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000. Here's more if you are interested.

Here in South Bend, IN on Notre Dame campus we know him to be an iconic symbol of the spirit of Notre Dame that will be truly missed by all. Many of us know him from the countless hours we spent at the library, that just so happens to be named after him and it's the place where he resided.

While some people got to know him personally through visits to his suite, others like me got to be graced by his presence in the lobby. If you just so happened to be there the same time he was coming in or going out, you were met with a big smile. He was like a beacon of light on those long nights where you felt like the studying was never going to end.  He'd be waving at everybody, with his cute little hat and coat; so friendly. Every once in a while you'd get lucky enough to have a little chat. \ He'd always say something to the effect of "How you doing? You are doing great! Keep it up! Keep working hard!" (Man it makes me think of my Dad, "Isn't this great?!) He made every person, no matter who they were, feel like a somebody.

On the world stage, he's known for his impact on the Civil Rights Movement and a photograph capturing a powerful moment of solidarity alongside Martin Luther King. He's also known for not being intimidated by the Oval Office, which I think is one of the coolest things.

Having worked at the White House, I was fortunate enough to be behind the scenes  bringing leaders and small groups into that room to meet with the President. I know how intimidating it can be.

Just getting your picture taken and shaking the President's hand leaves many people speechless. But this man had a presence I can just imagine commanded a dignity and respect not seen on a regular basis.

There are many people who meet the President and many of them get a picture to put on their wall. But I can see Father Hesburgh being a force for good. Snapping a picture to him was just an afterthought, not a claim to fame. To me I can see him just believing there was work to be done for the good of humanity.  

His passion for people was evident. The fact that so many people have come to town, dignitaries, alumni. Thousands of students have stood in line.

What an impact.

It's the kind of impact that only comes around once in a generation. In fact, it reminds me of the passing of a President. Another thing I was lucky enough to do was pay my respects to the late President Ronald Reagan.

June 5, 2004 he passed and the day of his wake in the Capitol my friends and I walked out of the White House, walked down to the National Mall and literally stood in line for hours through the night to pay our respects.

I thought my legs were going to give out. But, I didn't care because  this was a moment to say goodbye to a man who changed the course of history. This man Father Hesburgh may not have carried the title of President but he sure had such an influence. 

I didn't get to go over to campus to pay my personal respects to Father Hesburgh. But I feel like I had a moment on a spiritual level where I got to just say, "Godspeed," and it came at such a surprise. 

 It was the morning after he passed last Friday. Things came across social media. Then there was this one image...


It was this one below of a flock of deer on the iced over lake with the golden dome shining in the back. He passed around 11:30 apparently and this was taken just a few hours later....

Now -  you may think it's just coincidence, but I don't. I am one of those people who believes that God shows his presence in nature and often times in animals. But this time it was uncanny. Let me tell you why....

The day I found out my Dad died, it was about 7:30 in the morning. After spending hours processing, praying, grieving and talking, I needed to get out of my house.

So my husband and I walked over to campus from my condo nearby. As we came upon the grounds, we were walking towards the twin lakes by the grotto and stopped to pray at a statue in the woods of the crucifixion. After we were finished, we stood up and I just said, "Mike, look."  There in the trees was a doe staring at me. Behind that doe were two other deer which I imagine to this day to be like my grandparents.

That doe and I locked eyes and stayed there for what felt like 10 minutes and I just knew it was my Dad. It was the most moving, beautiful moments I've ever had in my life. 

So when I saw this image, I thought to myself, "Yeah, that's right. There's heaven ready to take him home." The golden dome shining in the background and everything. It's like whoever took it was just meant to be there (not sure who you are but happy to credit you!) to capture that momentary glimpse of heaven on earth for those who loved him. It was just like that moment I locked eyes with that one doe, hours after my Dad passed. What timing. 

All this to say, I felt compelled to write because I wanted to mark this mans life in the way I know how to tell a story and reflect, and that's my writing. So I pray for all those who will mourn him and have been influenced by his life in big or small ways, and I'm sure God's got some pretty fabulous plans for him in eternity.

So today, at 2pm when the Notre Dame family says goodbye to Father Ted, I'll be thanking heaven for such a presence on this earth and hoping he gets to meet my Dad. How lucky heaven is to get him! I can just image what God's got for him to do in eternity....

Godspeed, Father Ted and thank you.

One last note to all my fellow Domers - as if you can't get more ND sentimental, I just wrote this with the Rudy soundtrack in the background....