October 23, 2011

Gone Too Soon

Today, the world lost a fantastic wife, mother, and friend. My heart is very sad, and I wish there was something I could do to help the hurt for those that are left behind. For now, I will share the story...

During the last year at my old school, I had one student in particular that I really bonded with. P was my little buddy in the classroom, always offering to help pass out papers or hang things for me. At fall conferences, his mother told me that he talked about me at home all the time, and that there was no doubt at all that I was his favorite teacher. I have to say, the feeling was mutual.

In January of that year, I got a distressing email from his mom on a Saturday morning asking me to call her at home. When I did, she told me she had just been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She was calling me, she said, because I had a special bond with P, and she wanted to know if I would be willing to be his person. She wanted someone at school who knew what was going on that he could go to at any time, a safe person to turn to in a bad moment or day.

That's the kind of mother she was. In the face of her diagnosis, the first thing she did was make sure her children were supported.

P and I grew even closer as the year went on. I found ways to help him deal with his feelings within the context of our class assignments. His entire poetry anthology, for example, was all about his mom. Every poem expressed how much he loved her. He was even vulnerable enough to admit his fear and anger in writing. His dad helped him get pictures to decorate the book, and he presented it to his mom for Mother's Day. She later told me that it was, "the single most touching piece of schoolwork he ever produced."

During the last week of school, she sent an unsolicited letter to my principal (whom, you may recall, did not have the best relationship with me at the time) praising me for my role in P's life that year. When I called her that day to thank her, I also notified her that I would not be returning the next year. She immediately expressed her disappointment and invited me to dinner at their home. It was the first of many we've shared over the years, as this family grew to become my friends.

Even though I haven't been his teacher for years, the friendship I have with his family has allowed me to continue being a support for him through his mom's sickness. She's reached out to me on a number of occasions to ask me to take him out for a little pick me up. It was important to her that he and I still keep our bond, and I am so grateful for that.

This morning, though, she lost her battle. I feel heavy with sadness, mostly for P, his father, and his siblings. But also for myself. She was a great support to me. And a good friend, even in the midst of her own struggles.

Cancer sucks!

I think about her three children, all in high school, who have to go on without their mother. There will forever be a void in their lives without her. But I know she will be with them wherever they go. May her spirit shine through each of them forever more.


  1. Keeping you and your friends in my thoughts lovely. Cancer does suck!!!

  2. I am so very sorry Erin. Will be thinking and praying for you and also your student and his family. There is nothing good about cancer, I agree.