The Twice-Lived Life

“It is with a heavy heart that I share…” When an email subject line begins this way and comes from my principal, I steel myself before I open it. Yesterday was no different. Even though I no longer reside in the community where I taught for 26 years, I am still deeply a member of the community because I am teaching the students who do still live there.

Usually these missives contain news of a parent of one of my colleague’s death—and by no means do I minimize that loss—but when the death is a student’s, I am devastated. This is not the way life is supposed to go. No matter who the child, the loss is personal and universal. I have lost students before; it never gets easier. All that hopefulness…

A student from the Class of 2016, the ’15-’16 school year, whom I remember vividly, you know how some of them are, sending sparks of light into the world, a center-stage smiler, Olivia, is gone—suddenly. I sit in shock letting it sink in, all those damn questions about why, and why, and why. No. Answers.

As the day unfolds, I open another email, the one for the Slice of Life Challenge. Oh, my gosh, in all the activity lately, I’ve forgotten to register. Halfway through there is a question about having our students participate, and now that I’ve come out of retirement and have “my” students, I realize I want to resuscitate my former Edublog. I want my students to challenge themselves as “Slicers” and blog for an audience of their peers.

I open my that dormant space, not remembering the last class to truly engage with this writing medium and scan. Turns out the last class to blog from our class blog hub was 2015-16—Olivia’s class. And there’s “Olivia’s Blog” listed in the roll. And Olivia, a part of her that I was lucky to know, lives there:

“After researching and accomplishing all different kinds of unique bracelets, I have learned more about the techniques, strategy’s, and overall how to make certain intricate bracelets. So far I learned the…

  • fishtail
  • chevron
  • striped
  • heart

and there’s more to come but will be done after the project is over. ” This from her post at the end of her 20% Time Project.

And this:”Out of all the categories on the checklist, one of the highest points I exceeded above is persistence. I kept at the bracelets even when I messed up.”

As I read through the posts tracking our year together, I relive our relationship. It is a bittersweet journey, but writing, writing allows that. Olivia will always be alive on these pages. For that I’m grateful. 

(Thanks to the late Donald Murray for this title.)

6 thoughts on “The Twice-Lived Life”

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. Truly devastating, a life over far too young. What a beautiful way to work with your grief, to look through her writing. I hope you are comforted by this gift of her writing – how great that you inspired her to put words to page!

    1. Every time I think, “Why work on this writing thing so intensely?” I realize that we never know when it will matter, or to whom.

  2. Our students become such an integral part of our lives so that one is cut short we feel it deeply. I am sorry for your loss and I am sorry for those that will never get to know Olivia and the contributions she may have made. As you say, she lives on through her words.

  3. I am so sorry for this devastating news and the heavy heart I know you will feel for a long time. I’m glad for the student’s writing that survives. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    1. Thanks so much. I jest went to your blog. Oh, I am inspired. Poetry has gotten me through the pandemic, no lie. I LOVE the fact-as-a-poem. There are so many beautiful facts. I am exploring this with my students. You’ve made my Sunday—often gloomy—brighter by far.

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