Yesterday I received a wonderful gift in the form of a visit from a former student whom I taught about 15 years ago. I had not planned on going in to school, but I decided to go in to tie up some loose ends relating to our recently completed summer school. And boy am I glad I did go in. I was getting ready to leave when one of the maintenance staff announced that I had a visitor. A visitor? That late in the afternoon? I figured that it was probably my daughter, Kara, paying me one of her surprise visits. I had taken my glasses off briefly, so my vision was a bit blurred. It was a former student, but not the one I thought I had recognized. She corrected me, saying her name. I recognized her immediately, but there was something different. Like many of my former students, I had always wondered how she was doing. She was extremely precocious and loved the challenge of learning at a higher level.
As we sat in my office, she told me that she wanted to stop by the school to visit me and that throughout the years following her completion of high school she had always credited me for her intellectual development. She talked about her introduction to Faulkner (especially his "The Sound and the Fury"), Camus, Dostoevsky, Kafka, and others, in my Great Books class, attributing her love of literature and philosophy to my influence. And then she told me about her struggles and her battle with a variety of ongoing illnesses that visited in her final year of high school and that stayed with her since. That was what was different. Her struggles with illness was apparent. However, her battles did not get in the way of living her life and finding joy in it. My eyes welled up with tears as she talked about living. At that point I told her that she was my hero and my teacher, for it took a special person to go through that which she had gone through in her young life. Her experience was a timely reminder for me that life indeed makes sense. Thanks, A.