How do we get past the saddest I Day?

I suppose it’s the same with any profession. Singers tire of playing certain songs, chefs don’t want to make the same dish night after night. And as a writer, there are certain topics you no longer want to address, but must.

This year’s I Day presented one of those. Not that I’m a fan of I Day – I am on the record as it being my least-favorite aspect of our time at USNA, if not my entire tenure as a parent – but I really don’t mind addressing it now that we’ve been through it as I like to think I can help incoming Plebe Parents navigate the waters.

However, I loathe dealing with tragic stories and this year I Day presented the most tragic I can imagine. Amongst the flurry of parents posts ridden with angst about dropping their Plebe at the gate and last-minute worries about Plebe Summer came one of the most shocking items of all. “The mother of a Naval Academy midshipman was fatally shot while sitting at a patio area outside of the Graduate Hotel in Annapolis early Tuesday, Annapolis police said” read the opening line fo the Capital Gazette story.

The beautiful Cummings family – Leonard, Trey, and Michelle. (photo courtesy of GoFundMe)

I can’t even wrap my head around it. I imagine Michelle Jordan Cummings sitting on the patio of the Graduate – a property I know very well having stayed there a number of times – trying to take few breaths after dropping her son Trey on The Yard. Sure she had been through this to a degree when she left Trey at NAPS, but we all know it’s different at the Academy.

Now her son was actually on The Yard, about to begin his journey to become a Midshipman and a Navy or Marine officer. He would begin his first football season under Coach Ken and, come December, she would be in the stands, watching her son proudly wearing the Blue & Gold at the Army-Navy game. There were tailgates and road trips to plan and enjoy, letters and phone calls to share with the family.

And, in an instant, it disappeared.

She would never see those dreams fulfilled and her husband is left to carry on. Her son? What about her son? How does he move on? I lost my mother to cancer when I was in grade school, but I cannot fathom how he deals with his mother’s tragic end. There will be support, yes, without question. But making peace with something like that is a personal journey. There will be prayers and letters and counseling and classmates and chaplains and others that will console Trey. But as he embarks upon a most arduous journey at USNA, he finds his path much stepper, much more difficult than his fellow Plebes. And while it may sound cliché, his life will never, ever be the same. Since my own mother passed, I have often listened to a song written by the great Blind Willie Johnson:

“Motherless children have a harder time when the mother is dead, Lord.
Father will do the best he can when your mother is dead, Lord.
Father will do the best he can;
So many things a father can’t understand.
Nobody treats you like a mother will when your mother is dead, Lord.”

I would like to say that I hope this is the end of sad, tragic stories related to USNA, but it’s the Naval Academy, not Disney World. From a Mid taking his own life early in my son’s time at USNA to a number of Mids passing long before their time, it’s become clear that there will always be stories that hit you right in the heart. For those stricken with such moments, we can only hold them close in our hearts and prayers.

Fair winds and following seas Michelle Jordan Cummings. Your son and his Navy family have the watch.

“Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May the soul of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

A Go Fund Me memorial fund has been set up for the Cummings family. Click here if you’re interested in contributing.

2 thoughts on “How do we get past the saddest I Day?

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