By: Rieneke Helder | December 12, 2023
Artwork by Olivia Schultz
This article is in loving memory of Bekett Noble, a Redeemer student who tragically took their own life one year ago. While I did not know them personally, it’s been made clear to me that Bekett was an individual of admirable character with a heart for building community. Bekett Noble will not be forgotten.
Bekett Noble was a fourth-year Redeemer student who tragically took their own life on campus on November 24, 2022. To say that the subsequent year of watching the Redeemer community respond has been complicated would be an understatement. One student reflected on their experience, saying, “I’ve never physically felt emotions in the air the way I did on campus then.”
Recently, I was talking with a first-year student when the story of Bekett’s death came up in passing. Tentatively, she asked me if I could share more.
“Before I came to Redeemer,” she said, “I expected that everyone would be talking about it. I was waiting for some sort of spiel in my first-year classes, where my professors would clear the air and make sure we understood what had happened. After all, we’re part of the student body now, but we are the only ones who didn’t experience it—we just watched it happen on TikTok like everyone else.”
How is a delicate situation like this one supposed to be brought into the light? I’m not sure that there are easy answers as to how we can continue to remember Bekett’s life and share those memories with new students and members of the Redeemer community. Story-telling, however, is a powerful medium, and what follows is only part of the story showing the impact that Bekett’s passing has had so far on the Redeemer community.
There was certainly a heaviness in the air that is now clearly recognizable as a collective sense of grief. Even for those who did not know Bekett and were not grieving the loss of a relationship, the experience of grief was shared by all. For some, Bekett reminded them of community members who struggled with their mental health, while to others, Bekett represented loved ones who were part of the LGBTQ+ community. For others still, old grief was stirred up and needed tending to.
As classes were cancelled for the day, students turned to prayer, musical worship, and just being with one another. Several stories have come out of that day, of peers sitting in their grief together and mysteriously experiencing beautiful moments of communion and relationship amid confusion and pain. Considering the legacy of community-building that Bekett has left, it seems only fitting that this was where students turned with their grief.
In the days immediately following the news of Bekett’s death, countless students reported incredibly positive and encouraging responses from their professors. Many faculty reached out to check in and offer extended deadlines, extra office hours if students needed to talk, or the removal of penalties for being absent from class. Although classes continued as usual, most professors made it clear that if a sense of normalcy would be helpful, attendance was encouraged. If students needed a break, however, the vast majority experienced great kindness from professors in receiving the space to seek out extra help.
One way that Redeemer provided that extra support was by enlisting the services of professional grief counsellors and offering unlimited sessions to Redeemer students in discreet locations on campus. Students were encouraged to use such resources as often as they needed. Julie Kingma, Director of Student Health and Wellness, made a habit of checking in with students who visited the health clinic for other health concerns, pointing them in the direction of these services regularly. After a few weeks, Redeemer announced the launch of their Mental Health Support Action Plan. This includes one million dollars to be used over the next 5 years, a fifth of which will specifically go towards building a more comprehensive on-campus health clinic.
On campus, grief hung in the air so thick students could feel it. As one of the students affected by Bekett’s death on campus, it was disorienting to see the TikToks and comment sections online. While it seemed like onlookers were dissatisfied with Redeemer’s response, in reality, I saw Redeemer community members with vastly different perspectives on gender and sexuality mourning together. It is incredibly difficult to sit amid unresolved disagreement and show love to the person you are in opposition with, yet the Redeemer community sought to do this well.
On this issue, I think we would all do well to take a page out of Genesis’ book, a student-led LGBTQ group on campus. In a situation that served as an easy opportunity to speak into tension and create division, the group publicly exemplified a deep heart for unity. Two weeks after Bekett Noble, their friend and leader, passed away, they posted a beautiful statement, including the following:
“We indeed have felt grief and pain yet want to move forward in a spirit of hope. Redeemer’s actions have acknowledged that the voices of Genesis members are important and Genesis members have been invited into conversations about the next steps with Redeemer… As a reminder, Genesis’ vision, as led by Bekett, was and is to work with the university to make Redeemer a caring and compassionate Christian community. Genesis’ purpose is not to tear down Redeemer, but to make it a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students; our aim is not to divide or oppose—we would like to lean into our discomfort to become a more loving and diverse community of Christians, attempting to always reflect the love, compassion, and grace of Christ in all of our interactions within our community and beyond.”
This is only a fraction of Bekett’s story, and only a small glimpse into the complexity of living in a broken world and waiting for Christ’s return, where what is now only seen in part will then be made clear. In the year since Bekett Noble’s passing, the Redeemer community has had to learn how to grieve, disagree, and continue to love each other in the face of great difficulty. As our community continues to remember the story of Bekett’s life, may we reflect Bekett’s legacy in the ways we seek to grow into better community-builders, even amidst tragedy and grief.