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.


  1. How difficult.

    And yes, I too have wondered about the way this kind of news is often spread these days -- over facebook, IM, text messages. So much better if it can be told in person.

  2. Brave parents indeed of this young boy.
    How to get the news is difficult. But for most of the class, it was probably better that way than the shock of a sudden school announcement. We heard about a friend's death several months afterwards because of facebook. She was the reason I first got an account- to follow her daughter's reportings on her cancer treatment. But I didn't hear from her for a while, even after she had become a fb person herself, and went to her page and found messages that indicated she had died. Her family wouldn't have known to contact us, so that's really the only way we had to find out.

  3. It is true that more news can be shared via FB. Many things we wouldn't even know about get to us through this source. So I don't resent it, I just wonder about the change, and what it means about news spreading so quickly even to those who are very, very close a person. It's just different.

  4. apparently people in China have been very moved by this post.

  5. Oh, and I have to add- the "no garden without its weeds is appropriate to the comments, but not the post itself.