When you’ve taught school for several years, so many kids have come through your classroom door that you lose count. Has it been hundreds? Has it been thousands? The number doesn’t really matter at all because behind those numbers are human beings, adolescents, kids whom we believe will one day become the adults they aspire to be. One day they’ll live the lives they want to live.
You always believe that they will become those adults, they will live those lives because if you didn’t, you couldn’t survive in the classroom for very long. Some of these beings are memorable – for good or bad reasons; some of their names and faces blur over time, like chalk drawings on the sidewalk after a misty rain. You expect them to fade a bit – there have been so many, but you also expect them to achieve whatever their dreams. Never does the thought cross your mind that they are mortal. That they will die one day. That you might outlive them. You’re the woman of a certain age, and they still wear the beauty of youth on their faces – even the ones you taught two decades ago.
So when one beautiful young man called to tell me that another beautiful young man had passed away in his sleep, my vision of my students was shattered, however myopic it might have been. The universe had spoken. “When are you going to reconcile want with is?” it asked.
“Never,” I answer. Not because Death itself is a travesty, but because consciousness of death is. No matter how you choose to rectify it, I am not resigned, to borrow from Edna St. Vincent Millay. She expressed my sentiment in her poem “Dirge Without Music”:
So go ahead, universe. Continue on with your wayward plan. I’ll mourn the poets, lovers, thinkers, and madmen until you come again. Until you come for me.
For you, Sean René Laurant (1982-2018)
And for Stacey, too. Because though I wrote this dedication on May 29, 2018, I could not post it because the loss was still too raw. But then tragedy struck again this month – July – and again we had to mourn. This time your unimaginable loss. And I still am not resigned. Because it will never make sense.