Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Too Hard

I just returned from a memorial service for a remarkable young woman, an 11th grader at our school.  As is typical for me, I knew the girl, I knew the name, but I didn't have the two firmly bound in my mind.  I neither taught nor coached her, so she was like many other students who come through our school.

So, at first, I was weeping in the abstract, and I was weeping.  Here we - as a community - were confronted with the worst possible news: the death of a child.  If she had been ordinary, even somewhat anonymous, it still would have been crushingly sad.  She was not.  She was extraordinary.  To be a teacher is to believe in growth and possibility.  We are, by nature, optimists, dedicating ourselves to the spring of young people's lives so that they may reap a full autumn harvest.  We live over our student's horizons.  And Zoe will not cross any more horizons.  And that is devastating.

At the end, after some tearful remembrances, they ran a slide show.  And it was the combination of pictures that reminded me of the specific person that we lost.  I did know her, though not well.  She was luminous.

To some degree, I hold students at some distance.  I do it, because every year they leave.  We stay and they move on.  If I remain aloof, it's because graduation can hurt too much if I don't.  I am a rank sentimentalist.  Every May, I have to strap on my armor.

I am lucky, because young people like Zoe are a part of my life, even if she herself wasn't.  It is a privilege to nudge and guide them towards honorable adulthood, and a tragedy when their time is cut short.  Far too short.

Afterwards, I came home and hugged Thing One, who was home because once more his round peg could not fit into a square hole.  He is a damaged and flawed and wounded child in some ways.  But he is also full of love and moments of great kindness and joy.  I heaved with some sobs as I hugged him, and he asked what was wrong.  How can I explain?  Grief in the specific?  Grief in the abstract?  My fears for him?

I suppose in the end, there is only the embrace that I can offer him.  It isn't a cloak or a shield.  Love doesn't protect the worthy or unworthy.  The world isn't "fair".

All we can do is hold on to each other.