Today I found out my grandmother passed away.
It has made me think about the recent spate of articles about the “deaths of grandmothers” that are perhaps meant to be satirical, but to my reading are full of spite. http://www.chronicle.com/article/To-My-Student-on-the-Death-/240353
When I found out my grandmother died, one of the first things I did after talking to my father, for it was his mother, and my sister, was to contact one of my students by text.
That might seem odd. As a matter of fact, I wondered why I was even thinking of doing it. But I did.
Because his grandmother has brain cancer.
And this was found after she beat breast cancer.
He had to miss classes with me because she has had many surgeries and treatments. When I gave him my news, I also asked about her. He tells me she is still holding on and doing well. In addition to telling me about how his "grandmom" is doing, he responded immediately with a heartfelt text saying he would be there if I needed to talk.
My grandmother was 97 years old. She has been in a nursing home for several years, and her dementia has meant that we had been losing parts of her already.
Still, the ultimate final, ultimate loss is hard. I have found it to be so today.
Unlike some faculty, like the one that wrote the piece above, who seem to think that they are gate-keepers (to what?) and will make sure that only the righteous are afforded sympathy or empathy, I am thankful to this student for just saying a few short words to me in a text. I’m grateful and when I see him this fall, I will tell him so.
I hope I never get so jaded or callous as to think that my students lie at the loss of anyone close to them. Nor would I ever go to the lengths the article – whether tongue-in-cheek or no – seems to espouse.
We all have loss. And helping each other through it, professor for student, or sometimes, student for professor, is the kind of teaching in which I want to be involved.
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