My friend and colleague Kelsey Harkness has already beautifully memorialized Bre Payton in yesterday’s edition of BRIGHT, but I wanted to add my own words.
Modern life is wonderful in many ways. We have dishwashers and iPhones, but more importantly, modern medicine and nutrition mean that the vast majority of us survive through infancy into adulthood and beyond. Unlike generations past who lived with the ever-present sting of the untimely deaths of loved ones, today, if we choose to, we can push the reality of death to the back of our minds and focus on our day-to-day lives. And unlike Roman conquerors, our culture leaves us few memento mori.
In our modern lives, 26-year-olds are not supposed to suddenly fall ill and pass away. So many of us felt slapped in the face when our beautiful, vivacious, brilliant friend Bre left us so abruptly.
But Bre herself would not have needed to be slapped. Her unshakeable faith, combined with her intelligence and eagerness to learn, produced an unmatched studiousness on the most difficult questions of existence, including the tragedies of death. How many gorgeous, professionally meteoric 20-somethings – who, as Mark Hemingway wrote, “snap heads” just by walking across a room – have the passion to pursue the truth of the most important things while in the midst of a heady and distracting world? How many think deeply about why we’re here, how to be good in the time allotted to us, and to prepare for our inevitable passing from this world?
But I can tell you as someone fortunate enough to hear many of her thoughts on these subjects over the years and dinners and glasses of wine, Bre Payton was prepared. And in the cruelly short time she had here, she touched so many people, especially those of us lucky enough to be on the receiving end of her kindness and friendship, which she extended so easily. Bre was the remarkable sort of person who would text you a sarcastic meme one minute and a theological essay the next.
She was joyful in life, but prepared, as much as any of us can be, for death. The rest of us grappling with her loss can only reach for the example she set as we continue to miss her and wrestle with the why of her departure from us.
When some of the immediate grief has receded, I will treasure the fact that a few of my, and others’, conversations with Bre on a variety of topics live on at The Federalist Radio Hour. I’ve also put together a selection of her written work on Twitter for those looking to get a sense of her reporting. BRIGHT, the conservative movement, and the world at large are all lesser for having lost her voice.
But the real impact Bre had in her too-short years was to impress upon every person who had the pleasure of sharing her company her good heart, insight, and sarcastic sense of humor. She was gifted in so many ways that it would have been easy for her to inspire envy. Instead, looking around at the tributes her passing has brought, it’s clear that the only people who didn’t love her are those who didn’t know her. I will miss her terribly.
I’ll join Kelsey in urging you to donate, if you’re able, to the memorial scholarship Bre’s family has set up in her honor. If this scholarship guides future young people on a path that leads them to turn out like Bre, every dollar you donate will be well-spent indeed.