A student at my school passed away last night. It was unexpected – a tragic accident, horrendous in that other children saw it and tried to save his life – and yet it happened, and the dawn broke, and the sun rose and we all went to school. The day itself was agonizing. My students were beyond distraught. They all knew him and loved him; he was a well-known kid who always high-fived teachers and students alike in the hallway each time he passed by. I am still numb. I gave each class 20 minutes of silent reflection time (read a book, write a poem, write a letter to his family, write a letter to the senior class, pray, reflect, etc.) and then we watched Matilda for the rest of each class. I cried in front of every single class. All my boys cried. All my girls cried. The silence when the students first heard the news was awful.
I can barely process it, even begin to process it, but this I know for sure: my students are compassionate. They are empathetic. They want to know how to help the family. They want to know how to help each other. All the usual cliques and social barriers broke down as together they lost their innocence, straightened their shoulders, stood tall, and looked Death square in the eye. for many students this is not the first time. and sadly, it will likely not be the last. I don’t know if I handled this correctly. I don’t know if I said the right things. I tried to just say what was in my heart, and validate all their feelings, and reassure them this aching agony will not last forever. The day seemed endless. And finally, when we were allowed to go home at 2:30, a group of school friends and I had dinner together to celebrate his life and love one another and live out his legacy. In that moment, I have never been more grateful to have a group of school friends I consider as close as family.
I do not know what the coming days, weeks, or months hold. but there was one conversation I will replay in my head over and over:
Miss, was he scared when he died?
I don’t think so. Do you believe in God? It’s okay if you don’t.
No, I definitely do.
Okay. I think God was probably with him when he died. He wasn’t scared. God doesn’t let us be scared.
What about his friends who tried to save him?
God is with them too. And now [name]‘s with them. He’ll always be with them. Just like he’ll be with you too.
I just feel so sad.
I know. It’s okay to feel that way. I’m sad too.