Just as popular wisdom says that parents shouldn’t outlive their children, it strikes me that teachers shouldn’t outlive their classroom-children, either.
(As an adult school GED teacher, as well as university adjunct, I have had students older than I, including some that were fifty years my senior.
While the death of any student, regardless of age, is sad, this post refers to the death of younger-than-the-teacher students.)
As I anticipate my retirement and reflect on the first groups of students I’ve taught, they remain frozen in my memory at the age they were then—adolescents and pre-adolescents.
And I wonder if any of them, who were only seven or so years my junior, have gone into early retirement—before me!
Yet, sadly, among the other students I taught, I know three who won’t ever be retired.
One died on September 11, 2001 in New York City, when he was thirty-one, and got—and continues to get–the recognition he deserves every year during remembrance coverage.
Another one died in an emergency room, when she was sweet sixteen, with heart failure after an asthma attack. For her, there was no obituary announcement inviting anyone to her private funeral.
The third one died as a passenger in a car accident, when he was eleven. A foundation to promote safe driving, particularly stopping on red lights, has been undertaken in his memory and honor.
All three deaths sadden me, and they come to mind more frequently now, during this pre-retirement thinking-back period.
How many others are already gone, I do not know.
May God give peace to all of them and to their families.
There is nothing sadder to a teacher than the death of a student. Have you ever known that sadness?