Passing through

Ramadan Day 11 & 12

I work with high schoolers now.

When I interviewed for my current job, one of the questions I was asked was about a challenging moment I faced as a teacher.

I told my interviewer:

My first answer is the hardest thing I ever faced as a teacher. My second answer is academic.

He responded, Why don’t you share the first?

So I told him about Chris. What the suicide of a former student felt like. What the mandate to be a reporter felt like. What the teacher-student relationship, in that moment, felt like. What needing institutional support from your employer in order to be human felt like. What the need to grieve with other students and colleagues who knew him and what creating that space when you are also hurting felt like.

It was the hardest thing I had to do as a teacher.

Yesterday, at my current school’s memorial for Matt, I sat all the way in the back with my brother and looked at the heads of so many grieving kids.

I realized, considering messy curls and ironed jackets, that I was their age when I first lost someone I truly loved. I couldn’t see the other side of my heartbreak, but I could see forever at the same time.

These last few months, I have hugged a lifetime of adults and kids.

I can’t remember who came to my home, who ate with me, who cried on me.

I do remember who I cried on.

I remember the sad eyes of adults and kids; I remember the sad eyes of my brother; I remember how much I wanted to embrace them all.

I remember telling kids – Keep your eyes open. You are about to witness some of the most beautiful acts of humanity you have ever seen.

In their eyes, I could see deep in the well of my own being what we meant to each other. I could see what it meant to be an elder in community with those much younger than us, to be tangible evidence, as witnesses, as models that it is possible to survive grief, that once we pass through it, there is another side.

That we live, and we experience joy again and again.

It’s a strange thing. How much beauty humans create when their hearts are broken.

It’s a strange thing to look into sad young eyes and know with certainty — with حق اليقين – that this too shall pass.

Because some of us have done it more times than we would like.

And we are still here.

‎إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون

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