I was going to write a shallow column this week about what a low life Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is for jumping from USC and leaving them on probation and banned from postseason play. And then reality interrupted—I lost a dear friend to a brain aneurysm. And suddenly college football, and its unlimited number of self-centered numskulls, just did not matter all that much any more.

Ann was a person who lit up a room with her energy and raised, along with her husband Rick, three of the kindest children you could ever hope to meet. By an act of God’s grace, one of those children married my precious daughter, and they have given me the gift of my beautiful granddaughter, Avery.

Ann invested her life in people. She loved kids with all that was in her. Besides her own kids, she shaped the lives of countless children in her elementary school classrooms. She would speak of those children with exasperated affection, of her deep desire to help those who most needed it, of how hard the task had sometimes become. And then she would go and have a wonderful year, one in which she made a difference. Many, many young people bear her mark.

She had recently retired from teaching and, along with Rick, she was serving kids at a Lutheran camp in Colorado this summer when she was stricken. It was no surprise that she was serving because, in fact, that is who Ann was. The vacations of retirement could wait for another day. There was work to be done, and people to be changed, in a Colorado setting that had known decades of life-changing summers.

And her pattern of life has fallen to her children. Her oldest is my son-in-law, and he models for me how a man ought to treat his wife, even though I’m the one who is supposed to be setting the pace. He learned a lot from watching his Dad, and he has built on those lessons to become a husband and father of integrity and faith.

Her youngest daughter is an Aggie, bleeds maroon and Fish Camp and all the traditions. The middle son is a Tech grad, creative and artistic, but with an obvious undercurrent of entrepreneurism like his father. I mostly admire these three from afar, evidence of the fruit of two well-invested lives joined in a lifetime commitment.

But that lifetime was too brief, and for no reason that I can explain. I cling to an eternal hope, but it does not always bring clarity, at least now. Nor should it, perhaps. Clarity will be for another time.

Today we are standing with Rick and his children in the midst of their pain. I have lost a Mom and a brother of my own, but I do not have the right words to comfort them. But I can see the circle of those they love closing around them, surrounding them, keeping them from despair. They will be—we will be—with them for as long as it takes, even if it takes forever.

Few of the people I write about in these columns will have as sweet, and as simple, and as momentous an impact as Ann had in her too few years. She energized, she ennobled, she blessed, she loved the people she touched, including me.

And I thought I ought to tell you.