Yesterday I got a call that all teachers dread, but realistically we know we are going to get. We teach a lot of people over the years. I have anywhere from 100 to 160 students each year. I had 120 this year. Multiply that by 15 years of teaching and you know there are some tragic stories in there.
That knowledge does not help.
It does not keep your heart from falling to your feet when you get a call that one of your students has been killed. It does not help you breathe when you are told it is one of your favorites. (Sorry, but yes, we do have them.) When the other teacher calling says, "I know Klayte was special to you", the knowledge that this happens does not shield you from your emotions.
I am sad this Memorial Day. I will be sad for a while. I could tell you why Klayte is special and why I, and some of his other teachers, are so proud of him, and you would be amazed if you are not a teacher. If you are a teacher, you would nod your head and think, "yep, I know that story".
I will instead tell you that the world is less because Klayte is gone. He was smart, cute, funny, cheerful and had a good heart. He was more mature than most of his peers in many of his thought processes, yet he was a typical 8th grade boy in many ways. He would have been an asset to the world. I had high hopes for him. Perhaps he would have been a great success at something. But no matter what he did I know he would have been a person that made the world around him better for the people he knew.
Klayte is not the first for me. I wish I could think with certainty that he will be the last. I can't. I love a lot of people and with that comes the risk.
Before Klayte, there was Lee. Lee who used to stand and tease me while I was on afterschool duty, who changed girlfriends weekly (he was not very nice to them, but they all wanted to be his girlfriend). Lee, who showed hogs with his little brother in the stock show, and said they were going to go into business together.
And Shane, who was so tall in 7th grade that I had to let him sit at a table on the side of the room because the desks were not big enough.
Regina, I never actually taught Regina. She was a cheerleader the year I was conned into being the sponsor (my first- I needed the job). The other girls were not very nice to her and yet she never fought back. She just persevered in her quiet way.She graduated with scholarships and was successful in her field and working in New York. She was killed in a car wreck in Texas when she came back to help care for her dying father.
Erin, who told such tall tales with such imagination and sincerity that we all believed them. So smart. So rebellious.
There was also Bridget, sweet Bridget. Bridget was kidnapped, raped and murdered...by another former student.
I remember you all.
I want to remember Klayte's smile. I want to remember that he volunteered, again, to help me pack up my classroom for the summer. I want to remember how, when his dad shaved all his nice blonde hair off (that all the girls loved), that he took it with grace and humor, when most kids would have been hurt and sullen. I want to remember how he looked when he assisted the special ed kids to class and the uplift he gave them to be walking with him.
Klayte, I will miss you. I miss you all.