Tuesday, June 29, 2010

dying young

I had one day of overlap with the teacher before I'd be on my own with the class for the last month of school. And I showed up to terrible, terrible news. One of my students had died unexpectedly the night before. What a day of utter sadness. Stillness and quiet kids who didn't know what to say. No misbehavior. No goofing off meant to garner attention. Just a sense of being stunned. The teacher talked about her feelings a little and offered them time to talk with a counsellor, then had the students do a some work and left them to talk among themselves. I overheard one boy saying, "you know we just don't really believe that could happen. None of us thinks that could be us. We don't think about death, do we?" he asked his friend.

It was a heavy day for everyone, especially his friends. What surprised me was the fact that they all knew about his death before the announcement. When I asked them how they said, "It was all over Facebook." I know that was fine for most people, but I wondered what that experience was like for his closest friends. Did they log on to their account to discover that their friend had died? Bad news, life and death news, society has always delivered in person. There's an unwritten understanding that you wouldn't want to read in the paper or learn by hearsay about the death of someone dear, that it's news given face to face. But no longer -- and I'm not sure what I think about that.

At promotion, they left an empty chair for their fellow student, and when his name was called, his brave parents came forward to accept his diploma. The tearful, standing ovation was a fitting memorial.