Goodbye, Olivia Graham…

Most semesters, I get a student or two who seem set on making my life miserable. They complain that the tests are too hard (even though they didn’t get a book to study from) or that it wasn’t fair that they got a B or C or D (even though they spent class time stoned or hung over or text messaging or sleeping and didn’t turn in their assignments, blah blah blah….)

Olivia Graham was not one of those students. She came into my class every day intent on learning. There was a seriousness to her that I sometimes mistook for dislike. One the other hand, she would come in wearing bright pink outfits and holding a stack of brightly-colored flash cards. Her smile was bright, and her classmates loved and respected her, as did I. She was every teacher’s dream student, who wanted to learn, wanted to apply the lessons to her own life, and wanted to make the classroom experience memorable.

Two days ago, I found out that this bright star is gone. Olivia passed away last week. The young woman who wanted to be a judge is no longer with us. I’m 34, and I’m not old enough to have my students die. If this young woman could leave such an impression on me in a few months, I can only imagine the impression she was able to leave on those who knew her for all or most of her short life. And if my grief is this dark, how it must feel for her family, her best friend who now feels lost, and anyone who worked or socialized with her.

Today, do something that scares you. Say something kind to someone. Make the most of every second. Life is precious and sometimes shorter than we expect it to be. Sometimes we need to lose someone special to be reminded of that.

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