When you start teaching, it’s difficult to understand how much difference certain students will make in your life. They go out of their way to brighten your day. They share their lives with you. They make you laugh. They offer to help clean the board, wash your desks, put up new bulletin boards—and they never ask anything in return.
As the years go by, they come back for a quick hug, a bright smile and let you know how their lives are growing and moving. They change, grow up and dream of their future and I cannot help but wonder why they seem to love me enough to want to include me in their triumphs. It’s quite humbling.
It’s an honor to share these moments. I struggle to put into words how delightful it is to have these tremendous young people come back and check in with me. To think that years later the time they spent in my classroom when they were 13 means enough to them that they want to see me and want to let me know how well they are doing.
Whenever they appear, my heart swells just a bit more. It’s an unexpected payoff from all the hours thinking and planning, worrying and correcting papers.
Nothing however, prepares you for the loss of your first student. Cancer stole the life of one of my first group of students this week. My first year after school, she would regularly chat with me while I was changing my shoes to go outside for “loading.” Or while I waded through massive piles of papers. I think the words I heard the most from her were: “do you need any help?” And I know I have yet to see any student who had a bigger smile and as easy a giggle.
This young lady took her killer in stride. She was happy and positive through chemo and through what must have been a tremendous amount of pain. She worked, went to school, dreamed and planned of her future. She had an understanding of life and its eternal perspective.
And now, my heart hurts for her wonderful friends and her supportive, loving family. And though, I won’t get to see that broad, glowing smile again in this life, or hear that infectious giggle—sweetie—I won’t forget you. Thank you for loving me through that first year, I did not understand then what an important role your kind cheerfulness played in my life. Like every other person whose life you touched—thank you. I’ll miss you.