I realize this is not a revelation to anyone, but I’m saying it anyway.
It’s no secret that cancer can suck the life out of any one of us, whether we’re older people, healthy young adults, or even small children.
It’s also no secret that most people put up a good fight, and many, many people have beaten cancer, at least in the short-term. But the hard, cold truth is that many people end up succumbing to the disease that they have so courageously battled, sometimes for years. Their immune systems are not what they once were, and an illness that would lay most of us up for a day or two, can be a death sentence for a cancer survivor.
My child’s teacher died last week. He was teaching the Friday before, but was absent on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday morning I answered my phone to hear the completely surprising news.
Shock. Sadness. Worry. Sadness. Confusion. Disbelief.
But fact, nonetheless.
He was an incredible teacher. He’d already organized a Publishing Party and Talent Show, which he spent his weekends working on with the kids, and both of which were like nothing else I’ve ever witnessed in this public school system. The second Publishing Party was (and still is) scheduled for this week. He was planning the Olympic Games for April, and a second Talent Show at the end of the school year.
He was intense and driven, and inspiring, and would end 7- and 8-point emails to the parents with words like this:
I WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE TO ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS. YOUR HELP AND DEDICATION TO YOUR KIDS WILL ENSURE THEY BECOME HIGHLY CONFIDENT AND SUCCESSFUL ADULTS. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!
Thank you very much? Uh, thank us? No, thank you. Thank YOU very much.
I checked how many emails he sent to us parents -- 63 in total. 63 mass emails by mid-March.
He was incredibly committed, and enthusiastic, and seemed to genuinely enjoy life, and the kids, and his job, which he viewed as inspiring them to become writers.
Here’s how he ended an interview in 2002, before his diagnosis:
What advice do you give your students?
There are opportunities in life for everyone, it’s a matter of working hard and doing your best. Don’t get too attached to negativity. If you want to accomplish your goals and overcome barriers, you can.
And he did, for years.
He was 43.