I first met Rachel in the MPA program in 2007. (Most of the MPA folks would know me as Brad Carmack; I took my wife’s name when I got married in 2014). Early on, Rachel stood out to me as a thoughtful, bright and conscientious person. Her comments in class and participation demonstrated engagement and a grasp of the skill or knowledge we were gaining. I recall her being particularly good at maths.
I didn’t get to spend much time with Rachel after the first year, however, since I joined the joint degree program and did my first year at the law school when my MPA cohort began year two. During my last year in the joint program, after Rachel had graduated, I reached out to her for feedback on a book I was writing at the time about Mormons and homosexuality. I didn’t hear back from her until five years later, on Facebook.
Sorry I couldn’t find one of Rachel- the closest I could dig up is a
contemporary with me and some of the MPA crew
It was then that we connected on a deeper level. We discussed many topics that are often sensitive: religion, sexuality, gender, ableism, how transparent to be about one’s authentic self and personal journey. We discussed religious freedom, and Rachel spoke out in support of the campaign to protect BYU students from being expelled, evicted, and terminated by BYU for their religious beliefs. Around this time, Rachel came out in a couple of ways, and began to be more open and public about her views and identities. I admired her courage.We also discussed mental health: I remember one particular conversation about spoon theory that Rachel had quite a lot to say about (spoon theory is a metaphor used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness). The perspective she provided helped me understand her internal experience more.
We also talked about meaning and purpose in life, and how to go about volunteering and work. Throughout these conversations, one thing I valued about Rachel was her ability to express herself and articulate concepts in a wide variety of domains: a testament to her intelligence and commitment to learning. This, combined with her sensitivity (I like the phrase Troy used: “pure love”) and contemplative approach to issues and decisions, made me highly value her perspective and our relationship.