Ralph del Colle (Oct. 3, 1954–July 29, 2012)

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We here in the Department of Theology lost our beloved colleague, Ralph del Colle, last night at around 7:00 p.m. He was fifty-seven years of age. His death cuts to the bone, but it was neither unexpected nor unwanted, given his suffering. He had been lagging during the semester, but the news of liver cancer, and terminal cancer at that, came in mid-June. Alas, even the efforts at prolonging Ralph’s life against this monster—angiosarcoma—were still-born; his body couldn’t take the chemotherapy attempts, so they had to give up treatment. Alea iacta est—the die was cast.

The Department has been a still place from the instant we learned of Ralph’s illness, and to term it a graveyard is not too far from the truth. How horrid it is that our profession’s rhythms have had us yakking away about the upcoming school year when the phrase “this September” was to be meaningless for Ralph, who seemed destined to be taken by then. Little did we know that the same would be true for “this August.”

Encomia flow for him, and with justice. It would be nice to join in, but I’m stuck, and paralyzed by many things: emptiness, admiration for Ralph, gratitude for his friendship and leadership, worry for his family and for our Department, desire to have his holiness (but not yet), and just a pinch of fury at God. Tilt.

 The picture on Ralph's door

I pass by his door every time I head upstairs to my office. Knowing that he’ll no longer be there almost makes the whole place revolting to me.