ON THE PASSING OF A FORMER STUDENT
One evening after work, I heard the heartbreaking news that one of my first students had died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 19. My heart was heavy throughout dinner. As I was cleaning up from our meal, my husband was playing his guitar and singing while my middle child was dancing in our kitchen. I was overwhelmed in that moment.
The vibrance and vitality was highlighted by the loss of a young life, which had been characterized in many ways by a sense of motion. The grief was heightened by the stark contrast of life bursting at the seems, yet the joy of the moment was deeper because of the understanding of what had been lost. My heart was full and broken. The fullness caused the breaking, and the breaking enhanced the filling.
In my kitchen, my daughter bounces and spins
To music flowing from Daddy’s lips and fingertips.
The room is vibrant, full and dancing with life,
And in this room, the tears are pouring out
Streaming down my cheeks and upturned lips.
I’m smiling and crying, crying and smiling.
While she is twirling and kicking,
My heart is filling and breaking.
Because he is gone,
There is no music and dancing.
The world is spinning and bouncing,
And our hearts are breaking and filling.
I have shared this poem with my English students the past two years. When I look into their faces as I read them the poem, I still see the young man (who was almost constantly in a cast of some sort) sitting in a middle school classroom. I see his energy and exuberance in their young and promising eyes, and my heart breaks again… and again… and again.