he following column is in the form of letter addressed to a student I taught during the 2009-2011 school year in Arkansas. He was in my Art class. I wrote it late at night, after days of insomnia.
“Someone great is gone” • LCD Soundsystem
Early this week, I found out that you passed away. With you, a brilliant mind, a wonderful sense of humor, and a love for fantasy disappears from this world and enters the next.
I write this having spoken to you only once in the past five years. In other words, I knew you, but I lost track of you. Judging from how your classmates remember you now, the beautiful spirit I grew to admire stayed with you.
I write this appreciation without having been in touch with your family, your other seventh grade teachers (my colleagues), or even your fellow students who have been posting beautiful eulogies on Facebook. In fact, I write this while I should be on the road to your funeral.
But I’m not.
I’m avoiding it — terrified of the reality that I forgot about you as if, after teaching you, were relegated to a previous life already. Yet shaped me deeply as a person. And then I left. It’s a pattern I regret to say I still follow.
All I can do now is remember the times we spent together as teacher and student. You were in the Quiz Bowl team I helped coach (and our expert on Greco-Roman mythology). You were among the first to sign up for Art Club (we’d sit together and joke around as you waited to be picked up after school).
On field trips, you borrowed my iPod to play games, asking me to help you tackle challenges.
On one occasion, you forgot to bring a suit to school for the National Junior Honors Society induction ceremony, so I ran home during my planning period and got you mine. We rolled up the cuffs, hid the long end of the tie between the top two buttons, and you looked great. You didn’t let it phase you. I was proud of your manner, your intelligence, and proud that you were being honored.
On some wonderful days, you’d show up to class with a notebook packed with drawings of newly invented semi-medieval weapons, excited to share the Da Vincian work you’d done at home. Using a pen, you’d devised a unique cross-hatching technique. I wish I’d kept some of your drawings. I wish I had praised you more for them.
In retrospect, teaching you was like teaching myself. We were both nerdy kids that loved our friends and learning and reading. You were unafraid to say what you thought was cool. Being smart was cool.
I’m sorry I vanished. I probably could have done little, but at least you would have had my friendship close at hand. I miss you. Thank you for reminding me that life doesn’t work in chapters that open and close, but in cycles that crash into each other bringing both beauty and challenge. Rest in peace, be loved, and don’t ever stop sharing your heart, humor, and brilliance.
With love, Mr. Carroll