Grief #SOL21 6/21

The first time I understood someone else’s grief was the second time I fell in love with a poem. The day after our beloved Calculus teacher, Doc, died of cancer, the principal announced her passing over the PA.

Doc loved teaching and, I think now, loved us. After her diagnosis, she had taken a summer trip and then decided to keep teaching for as long as she could. We would be her last class – not something we understood at all.

Sometimes, when we were struggling with a concept or deep into a problem, she’d order pizza to be delivered to the school’s back door & sneak it up to the classroom. We’d stay in and do math through lunch. No one ever complained.

Once, when my home life was falling apart, she asked me to come to her house and babysit her granddaughter. I still remember the long quiet afternoon away from home, swaying with the baby as Norah Jones sang “Don’t Know Why.”

After the principal’s dry announcement, Mrs Jackson – 9th grade Algebra – came on. In a voice that quavered at first, she began: “Do not go gentle into that good night”

With each line, each verse her voice grew stronger, until the end: “Do not go gentle into that good night./ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Was there silence then? It was high school; experience tells me that most of the students went right back to talking. But that’s not what I remember: I remember silence. I remember Dylan Thomas’s words reverberating through homeroom, through the hallways, through the school. I remember knowing that I would cry when I got home.

I had no idea that a poem could stop the world like that. I had no idea that grief could echo in empty spaces. I know now.

Now I know.

Thanks to https://twowritingteachers.org for hosting this annual challenge

12 thoughts on “Grief #SOL21 6/21

  1. This is great writing! You had me hooked at the beginning and never wavered until is was done. I especially love the line, “I had no idea that grief could echo in empty spaces.” Wow.

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  2. I love that poem, and I love the sounds or lack of sounds in this slice. I love the line, “I remember knowing I would cry at home after school.” I like that confusing image of a noisy classroom but someone in a bubble with no sound. I think that is sometimes what grief feels like, too. I’ve thought about that poem a lot this fall and winter.

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  3. Dear Amanda,

    There is something uniquely astounding about how we perceive and process pain – especially when it’s related to someone to whom we are so interconnected. That you have treasured the poignancy of poetry at its finest – touches me deeply.

    I’ve often been told by peers and colleagues how difficult it is to write pieces of length. Conversely, I think the greater challenge is to capture the profound in the economy of words that resonates with the realities of life. Thank you so much for sharing this bittersweet moment. It celebrates our spirit in the darkest of hours. Through this post, you have beautifully shined your light.

    With Warmest Regards,

    ~Carla Michelle

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is one of my favorite poems. I remember reading about Dylan Thomas writing it as a tribute to his father. I’ve always thought of it as a clarion call. It seems applicable to your teacher. Lovely memory.

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  5. I am near tears just reading your slice. What a beautiful tribute to your beloved teacher, and to the power of the written word. You recount the announcement of that poem so beautifully – it was heart wrenching to experience even through your brief retelling. Thank you for the reminder of the importance of writing, and reading. I am sorry for your loss, even still.

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  6. I wondered if you would be able to write given this sudden loss, and you have done it. Incredibly done it. You drew from your past, from poetry, and brought it here. I am deeply moved by your words. I am so sorry for this sudden loss.

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  7. At her father-in-law’s funeral my friend read a poem she had written about him. It was so beautiful and I kept it on my dresser for a solid year. I didn’t even really know her father-in-law, but through the poem I came to know him. Poems are amazing.

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  8. Wow. Your writing made me forget I was reading. I was right there in Doc’s class and crying by the time I heard the poem through the loudspeaker. Thank you for sharing.

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