Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Losing a Student

One of my students, a vibrant 23-year-old woman, passed away this past week. My heart goes out to her parents; I can't even begin to imagine what it is like to lose a child. All the love, the promise, the joy, gone in an instant.

Out of respect for her privacy, she will not be named here. I do not know how open she was with others about her spiritual studies with me, and do not want to out her.

This is not the first time I have had to wrestle with losing a student in death. When I taught high school many moons ago, I lost two students in the same day--sisters who were late to school who drove together. They never made it to school.

No matter how it happens, it's never easy to deal with.

As a teacher you see a different side of your students. When the topic is spiritual, you see them take more responsibility for their spirituality, and their beliefs develop a strong, healthy root system that hopefully can sustain them through the difficult times of their lives. You want them to leave your classroom empowered and with a positive attitude that they can handle anything life chooses to throw at them. If you're a good teacher, you care about the well-being of all your students and wish for their success, because when they reach their goals, you witness a miraculous thing.

Having to tell her classmates about her passing was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do, and as I did so I felt like an old man. But we mourned her as a class, doing a ritual to honor her. We shared our memories and our stories, and even laughed some to take the edge off of our grief. But there's still going to be the emptiness, and that will be the hardest.

I have one less chair to set out on Friday nights. I had to take a graduation pendant that was supposed to be hers and place it in a box of memories, and remove her homework folder from my files. These things seem so little, and yet they take on a huge significance when you know that there will be no more homework, classes, or graduation celebrations.

I hope that all of those who mourn find peace and consolation in the many happy memories they had with her. Now is the time for those who knew this young lady to come together and mourn her, and grieve in whatever way is appropriate for them. 

I was honored to be her teacher, and I learned a lot from her. I hope to honor her memory by teaching others for many, many years to come.

May the Lord and Lady bless you abundantly, today and each day.


  1. Sending you and your students warm and healing thoughts. ~G.T.

  2. I'm so sorry for the loss of your student. I pray for healing and peace for you and the family.

  3. John, I am so sorry. I am sending hugs and support your way, and pray that her family and friends find healing.

    1. Thanks, Susan. We are coping as best as we can.