Life and Death


I would say that this has been an exceptionally difficult year. For my blog readers, you are probably already aware of all the stress put on Josh and me from finishing up my master’s degree. But this year has also brought new life. Josh and I are preparing for our first child to be born in September. Several of our friends and family members have announced that they are pregnant as well. We are so joyous for this new life.
But this year has also had the death of three people close to the school at which I work. The first was a student of mine, Hugo. He died on January 27th suddenly from an epileptic seizure. His mother moved the two of them here from El Salvador early last year. He was in my Art and Crafts classes all year long (the only student the office ever allowed to do that). So, I saw him twice a day. I often saw him three times a day as well when I tutored him in math. He was a bright-eyed, joyful boy who could also be quite a handful. I always thought he’d be one of those boys who turned his life around and came back years later to visit. But, he died and I miss him.
Next was Christian. Christian found out that he had cancer last year and has been fighting the battle ever since. This year there came a point where he couldn’t come to school anymore. I did not know him very well, but many students at Hyde knew him well. He was the kind of kid who put others first and strived to be loving and supportive, despite his own bleak circumstances. When he was put on bedrest, I led a group of students to fold him a chain of 1,000 paper cranes as a sign of our hope and love for him. We spent our brunches for three weeks folding cranes. They were strung up on the ceiling above his bed and hopefully showed him encouragement and love in his final days. He died two weeks ago.
Sometime this past weekend we got news that a fellow teacher at Hyde died. Mr. Purdie taught 8th grade Language Arts. Known for his crazy antics and strange sense of humor, the students and staff did not take this well. We got news yesterday and had to read a letter to our students explaining his death. For my classes, which are 6-8th grade mixed, some students broke down instantly and others were confused because they did not speak English and did not know who Mr. Purdie was. It was an emotional, surreal day of listening, counseling, and trying to be emotionally stable enough to survive.
As I was reading the letter of Mr. Purdie’s passing to my students, my baby was moving and kicking inside of my belly. I felt his health, strength, and vibrance. The contrast between that and sharing the sad news of death with my students was overwhelming. I ended up having to get someone from the office to cover my class for a few minutes while I tried to pull it together.
I suppose this year has been a precious reminder of the beauty and sanctity of life. And the sense of wonder that any of us are actually breathing at all. It has also made me remember to draw tightly to those I love and to make my love known.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Hugo, Christian, and Alex.