It was five years ago. After successfully defending my masteral thesis, I was immediately given my first teaching assignment. Years after being deprived of my dream to become an educator, the opportunity unexpectedly came. Happiness should prevail in me because this marked the fulfillment of a dream. At that point, the happiness was rather overpowered by a great fear.
My first few weeks as a college instructor were frustrating. All I felt was fear and nervousness. I almost thought that I wouldn’t last for a month.
I will never forget the first class I handled. Aside from launching my teaching career, I was blessed with rare well behaved, smart and responsible students. They made things easier for me. I learned how to properly deal with different personalities, started to discover common points of difficulties and adjusted my teaching style to their learning preference. The subject I handled then was Thesis Writing. In order to gain the trust and support of my students, I individually conduct consulting sessions with them. It was tiring but very fulfilling. I get to know them better. So gradually, I learned to adjust and fully embrace teaching.
Fast forward now, the kids who gave me my first taste of teaching are already successful professionals. I know that some of them earn six-figure salaries, have established careers here and abroad and are able to uplift the economic status of their respective families. All of these I’m able to discover through Facebook. If not because of this social networking site, I would never be convinced that I have done something good in life.
Irene was part of the first class I handled. A day in our class will never be complete without her giggles and corny jokes. Despite her cheery personality, Irene showed diligence and persistence in every output I require.
I handled Irene and her classmates in two consecutive semesters. Although days before the second semester, I still wasn’t sure whether I will handle them. I will never forget when she dropped by my office on the first week of the semester. She wants to know whether I will still be their teacher. She insisted that I will handle their subject. In return, I would tease her by pointing them to another notoriously strict professor.
Fast forward now, I never saw Irene and most of her classmates. It was only Facebook that connected us. Over the past months, I noticed the same words posted in Irene’s page. Most of her friends would tell her to get well soon. I was alarmed by the overflowing wall posts but I never took them seriously. All the while, I thought that Irene was just suffering from a not-so-serious illness.
Monday came and when I logged in my Facebook account, I felt a sudden cringe when my newsfeed was overflowing with the same posts. I went to Irene’s page and I was terrified with the continuous flow of these words
My body felt that rare but familiar shiver again. I felt that accompanying weakening sensation from my arms that extended to my knees. It can’t be.
I messaged her classmates and it was confirmed. Irene have been battling Lupus since her last year in college. She has been suffering from the incurable disease since the day I first met her. How can the happiest kid in the class silently battle a serious disease?
Upon communicating with her friends, I learned that Lupus caused complications to her lungs, heart and her brain that finally ended her life.
Death is my greatest fear for myself and loved ones. When my maternal grandparents, paternal grandma and best friend passed away, I felt that unique tears from sadness, regret and grief. When I learned that Irene passed away, I realized one thing. I will always have different personification for death. Death is always accompanied by grief. However, each grief is unique enough to be compared.
Setting aside the intensity of grief, I will always have a unique grief story every time I lose someone. When my grandparents passed away, I was in the shoes of their many grandchildren. When my bestfriend left, I felt so alone and deprived of that happiness. When I learned that Irene passed away, the sadness meant that I was helplessly robbed with one dream.
The box compiles some items I gained from teaching. I consider this as my treasure chest in teaching. The pile of index cards represent the number of students I have handled over the past years. Each school year means additional pile of students. A friend asked me why do I bother to keep them despite having online records. I simply told my friend that I just wanted to keep them. Inside my heart, there’s a deeper and personal reason behind everything.
For me, each index card represents a dream. I see them as my own stars. Each card will remind me of a college kid I tried to mentor. Each card reminds me that I was given a noble task to lead the path of different dreams. Each card represents a life capable of creating and fulfilling a lot of dreams.
More than being my clients, my students are my stars. They are living testaments that I’ve done something good in my life.
When I learned that Irene passed away, I looked at the pile of cards. I lost one great dream.
Rest in Peace Irene …
Till we meet and laugh again!