The culture of death


My mom died. It was totally unexpected.

I had to leave my colleague at home to do all the fun things we had planned with our class alone.

But I told her to talk to our students about why I was not there.

It’s not easy to do when you don’t have words to share what is happening. So she showed pictures of how we deal with death, traditionally, in the United States. My mom donated some organs to three recipients. Suzy thought about trying to get that message across, But the pictures were really gross. So maybe when they speak a little more English.

The basic idea, though, was that I was away because my mom had died. Suzy shared our cultural traditions of sympathy cards.

I was sitting in Las Vegas, waiting for my dad to get his hair cut before the funeral, when I started getting e-cards like this in my mailbox.

They were all scripted. All of them said the same thing. But they were all heart-felt. You could tell the time they spent finding just the right images. It was sweet and made me cry.

I came back two days before our winter break. I didn’t have to come back, but I did. I missed my little family. I missed my students. And I needed to let them know that I was OK, that we were going to be all right.

I was greeted with hugs and waves. Not many words. Because, well, what do you say?

I am so grateful to have my colleagues and my students.


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