Through This to That…


Sunset Oregon

When the text comes, I am in Mexico City traveling with my sisters. A former student now an adult, married and in graduate school for creative writing, lets me know that another of my students has lost her father after a long illness. His text says, “It seems like something you’d like to be informed of.” The word choice “like to” is unfortunate. No one wants to learn about this kind of loss, especially from 3000 miles away, but he’s right. I do want to know when someone I love is suffering even if there is so very little I can do.

When I return home I search my Drive, knowing that this special young woman, a gifted writer in my class as a seventh and eighth grader, left a trail of powerful words for me to follow, words that will help guide me in what to say. As an aspiring high school senior, she shared a copy of her college admission essay with me. In it she recounted the moment when she, her mother, father and brothers received her dad’s diagnosis: Frontotemporal lobe dementia.

In the piece, she uses a sailing metaphor, rough weather, the need to cling together in order to survive. She tells what she has discovered: patience, understanding, and the reserves that surface in crisis. She asks the question: “After all, what is a person without knowledge? Without memories?”

I offered her her own words as comfort: “And so we caught our breaths, held them close as we did each other, and learned to swim in unison with the tide.”

In the best and worst of times, words remain. We can consider them, weigh them, even bemoan them as markers of a naiveté we visited once but now have left behind. As someone who was struggling with what path to travel, I can only be grateful for the writer inside the grief.

for Julie

7 thoughts on “Through This to That…”

  1. Words comfort. They heal. They make us feel that we are not alone. Words ease the burden of grief. I know this young woman welcomed your words and they gave her comfort.

  2. Our words hold our humanity and being able to offer this former student her own words at this difficult time shows how much you value her as a person. To have held onto her words, kept them in a safe place until needed – that is the mark of genuine friendship and deep care.

  3. Beautiful. And how loved and seen this must have made this young woman feel; to know that you not only kept her words, but thought to offer them back to her in recognition of her gifts and as solace in this time. Love this.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I visited your blog but couldn’t find a post on the home page. Are you participating in #SOL19?

  4. Beautiful! Your post is so true. The power of words is so powerful – good or bad. I teach sixth grade science and ELA, and I ALWAYS feel like I connect to my ELA students more than my science students because of their written word that I read each day. Thank you for sharing.

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