Senseless tragedies often make the world feel irredeemable.
Adam Johnson, formerly of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, was killed on the ice during an Elite Ice Hockey League game in England on Oct. 28.
According to USA Today, 24-year-old Ryan Wolfe — Johnson’s girlfriend of three years — has since discovered an engagement ring in the apartment they shared.
Family friends confirmed that J0hnson, 29, had intended to propose to Wolfe.
Grant Clafton, one of Johnson’s former coaches, described the slain player as a “joyful grump” who eventually “became just joyful. And we all know Ryan was the reason.”
“I was looking forward to the life that Ryan and Adam were creating and deserved. And my heart breaks for her,” Clafton said at Johnson’s memorial.
Johnson was killed during the second period of a game between his Nottingham Panthers and the Sheffield Steelers.
As Johnson carried the puck into the Steelers’ defensive zone, he began veering toward the middle of the ice. At that point, he collided with Steelers player Matt Petgrave, whose left skate slashed Johnson’s throat.
Johnson collapsed to the ice and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
On social media, video of the incident caused a firestorm of controversy. Some thought Petgrave raised his skate intentionally, while others deemed the collision a freak accident.
On Tuesday, South Yorkshire police arrested an opposing player — presumably Petgrave — on “suspicion of manslaughter.” The English justice system will determine the rest.
Of course, even if Petgrave is convicted, Wolfe will feel nothing resembling justice.
At Johnson’s funeral last week in Minnesota, where the couple grew up and met one another, the young woman read a tribute to Johnson as if he were still here — the sort of thing she might have read on their wedding day.
“You’ve been so amazingly supportive and kind to me since the day we met. And I couldn’t have been more grateful for it. I always thought that maybe if I was lucky enough, after a lifetime together, that I might start to be more like you,” Wolfe said, according to the Daily Mail.
Later, when describing Johnson’s dreams of starting a farm, she envisioned him in his new home.
“I just hope in heaven they let you have your farm, and all the cows and chickens your little heart desires,” she said.
Finally, she shifted to the past tense.
“To me you were everything. You were my home, my best friend, my sounding board, my rock, my safe haven and the love of my life. I’m never gonna stop thinking about you, missing you and loving you until we can be together again.”
After the death of Abigail Adams on Oct. 28, 1818, her husband John Adams — the Founding Father and second U.S. president — received a letter from his friend, Thomas Jefferson.
Instead of offering what he called “useless condolances,” Jefferson gave his grieving friend a vision of a glorious future.
Together, Jefferson wrote, he and Adams could look forward to the day when they would “ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved & lost and whom we shall still love and never lose again.”
Jefferson had it right. Condolences feel like platitudes. Visions of ecstatic meetings, however, give hope.
Until then — hard as it is — we must remind ourselves that a world in which we know tragedies is also the only kind of world in which we can learn the meaning and value of love.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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