These past 5 years have been "interesting" in both the best and worst ways. I have tried new things and challenged my self and my fears. I have lived through a horrible tragedy that claimed the lives of thousands of people. I have discovered things about myself I would have never known. I have watched lives start, babies being born, and marriage promises being made. And I have watched lives end, stolen away by age, tragedy, and most recently a life long horrible disease.
As a teacher, I can think of nothing worse than a young bright student's life being ended before they had the chance to really begin. But sadly, last Friday afternoon I had to pay my last respects to a bright young girl whose life was taken away by leukemia. She was only 15 years old.
Hiroe was one of my English speech contest students. These are the students I grow the closest with over the months of daily coaching for the city speech contest. When I first met Hiroe one on one she was a frail, thin girl, with very short hair and a lovely smile. She had been in remission for only a few months and was still gaining back her strength and health. A bone marrow transplant had finally been successful and she was able to return to school. Intelligent, but quiet, I had to push and coax her to speak loud enough to be heard, but she had beautiful pronunciation, and over the course of the first semester she was slowly rising to the top of her class, even though she had spent the last few years in and out of the hospital.
She didn't win at the speech contest, but it didn't matter. She did it. Plus as a second year student we had time, this was just preparation for next year when as a third year she would be presenting an original speech, and it was going to kick ass.
In the second semester she rose to be the top student in her year in English. We all breathed a sigh of relief. She was well, she had returned to her normal life, and in a year she would shine as a third year who was truly going somewhere. However our relief was short lived.
In the third and last semester, Hiroe grew sick again. She missed class and had to return to the hospital. Before the new school year she was permanently hospitalized and very ill. The cancer had returned. Eventually it was decided to try the transplant again, this time with her one of her sisters as donater. However, her body had trouble accepting the transplant and on December 4, 2012 she passed away.
On Friday I went to the viewing with the other teachers. We lit incense, rang a bell and prayed. We greeted Hiroe's grandmother, aunt and sister (who was one of my former students). I cried. And all I could think is that there is an order in this world that needs to be maintained. Children should never die before there parents or their teachers. It's not right.
In some ways it does feel like much of my time here, and the changes in myself have been defined more by death then by life. But because of that it makes the time and the changes all the more precious. And in the end I would not trade my time here or the things I've learned for anything.
Fare well Hiroe. May your soul find peace wherever it roams.