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Bradley, Ed, Michael, and Nicole.

  • Sunflower field panorama
    Bradley, Ed, Michael, and Nicole.

    These are the four former students that I’ve lost. We have all lost them. They died. As their professor, someone who spent just a short time with them, maybe you think I wouldn’t be affected by their loss. You would be wrong.

    Bradley was one of the most promising students who ever attended any of my classes. He was a great thinker with an open mind. He was an asset to my classroom. We often spoke outside of class too. He was going to do great things. About a year after he transferred from community college to an Ivy League school, my dean called me to his office, sat me down and told me about the car accident that took Bradley.

    That was some time ago. I don’t know of any former students who died in the interim, but within the last year, three more former students have passed.

    I kept in touch with each of them on Facebook...mostly just sharing the occasional “like” over a post or a photo. Once in awhile, engaging in a little chat; Asking what’s going on, or sending congratulations over a significant event. I really enjoyed hearing from them from time to time and following how they were doing.

    In class, Ed and I discovered that we both attended the same high school, although decades apart. That’s not too unusual, but we bonded a bit over that anyway. He was vibrant and he was definitely going places. He moved to Manhattan and was, as far as I could tell, a young mover and shaker in the entertainment business. He had a family and a very young son. I remember seeing a post one day on Facebook saying he was going to the hospital because of some stomach pain. Turns out he had advanced pancreatic cancer. I, along with a multitude of others, wished him well on Facebook. He stayed positive, as seen in his regular updates from the hospital, and he fought, but ultimately, he succumbed.

    Michael and I knew each other before he took my classes. He was my next door neighbor about 15 years earlier. He was a teenager who seemed to be in trouble a lot, and frankly, I was a little bit frightened of him. Somehow, even though I was much older than him, we connected a little talking about computers and the new fangled 28,800 baud modems! Speedy! We moved away and he certainly forgot about me. I’m sure he didn’t remember me when he signed up from my course. I doubt he ever knew my last name. When I got the roster, I saw the name, knew it was familiar, but couldn’t quite place from where. But, when he got to class I instantly recognized him. When I described to him how we had been previously acquainted, he remembered and reminded me how much computer assistance he had given me. He was now in his 30s and had a family. Again, mostly communicating on Facebook after he had finished school, we did still occasionally discuss computer stuff. He posted that he had cancer on his tongue, and went through extensive treatment. A very tough battle. Nevertheless, he seemed to rally for a while and I think he went back to work, but then things got worse. I would send good wishes throughout. He died a couple of months ago. The last communication we had, I guess appropriately enough, was his recommendation for a WiFi router.

    Nicole died suddenly, twelve days ago. I was devastated to learn that she struggled with addiction and that she died from an accidental overdose. When I read that she was gone, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. How could this be? She had just posted a photo with her family. Through the years since she was in my classes, she always wished me a happy birthday and occasionally would ask advice. She was bright and funny and always brought a smile to my face. About two weeks before she passed, she “liked” the sunflower photo I took, shown above.  I am still shocked and sorry to learn of her passing.

     

    I treasure the ongoing relationships I have with my former students, whether we maintain close ties or just become acquaintances. I am happy for their accomplishments and I feel for them when they are in pain. And I mourn for them when they die.

    Bradley, Ed, Michael, and Nicole. I won't forget them.

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  • Joann Kovacich likes this
  • Joann Kovacich
    Joann Kovacich Like you, I am grateful for the relationships I build with students whether face-to-face or online. And truely cherish those that continue through time. I am happy when they succeed and share words of comfort when life isn't as kind. I grieve for those ...  more
    September 28, 2015 - 2 like this

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