Actor Ted Schwartz shares grief over death of Truett student

By Meghan Hendrickson

Grief filled the air in chapel Monday morning as students joined in prayer over the loss of Winter Park, Fla. first-year Truett Seminary student Jake W. Gibbs.

Gibbs died Saturday.

After a unified “amen” resounded throughout the auditorium, actor and writer Ted Schwartz took the stage to share his story while also performing various monologues he has written over the past 20 years.

Part of Schwartz’s story was about his longtime friend and theatrical partner, Lee Eshleman. Eshleman battled bipolar depression for 20 years and eventually took his own life the day before a show he and Schwartz were scheduled to perform.

Schwartz canceled the next day’s show, but for the next four years he wrote play after play as he experienced what he called “creative diarrhea.”

In the midst of his creative biblical monologues, Schwartz told students part of why grief is so difficult is that there is no template for it.

One student in the audience, McKinney freshman Matt Blair is passionate about theatre and said he appreciated Schwartz’s message, believing it contained deeper meaning given the nature of the day.

“I definitely felt like there was some, I really don’t know how to describe it, but I don’t think you could say it was a coincidence,” Blair said.

“I think that the timing of this particular chapel was very appropriate.”

In light of Monday’s reminder of the brevity of life, Schwartz said he has not mastered dealing with grief, but that he is battling it.

“You will have your own journey and it will take the time that it takes to deal with it,” Schwartz said.

“To deny grief, mourning and lamenting is the biggest weight in the universe,” he said.

Jared Slack, coordinator of worship and Chapel, said choosing Chapel guests is an intentional process.

“Our aim is not to entertain, never is that our aim,” Slack said. “Entertainment doesn’t bring about transformation. It’s whenever you’re put in a moment when you’re able to listen to something new that transformation can come.”

Schwartz said he recognizes the instability grief brings, but he chooses to “journey with God” through it. “It’s not all okay and it’s not going to be okay,” Schwartz said. “But that doesn’t mean it has to affect every part of your life constantly.”

For those dealing with a loss, a group called Good Grief has been started. The group meets Thursdays at 2 p.m. in the Bobo Spiritual Life Center.

University chaplain Burt Burleson created the informal gathering in response to the request of a few students who were grieving their parents’ deaths and wanted to meet with a group of peers who understood what they were going through.