You Done Good: A Letter of Remembrance
You done good, kid.
The snow has been pretty wild today, so I was stuck at home ( y a y . . . ); decided to get a head start on my readings for my palliative care course. Due to the nature of the course, the chapters talked a lot about death and dying, and different perspectives that people may have. I was in the middle of finishing up the readings for next week, and suddenly remembered one of the first instances of death that I had experienced. As some of you may know, I am no stranger to seeing death and being present at individuals’ final moments (thanks to my 8-month full-time internship on a palliative care unit), but those were not so much personal losses, because it was part of the job. For some reason I was feeling sentimental, so I dug up a post I wrote on my previous, now-inactive blog about this special individual who always believed in me.
June 20, 2016:
This entire morning and afternoon, I’ve had an unsettling feeling in my chest, an increased heart rate… but I couldn’t pinpoint why. And then at 3pm, I found the reason.
My mom called me minutes after she received news that a favourite middle/high school teacher of mine had passed away suddenly. I just sat there, choking back on tears, not knowing how to react. And then I thought the best way to honour his memory is to share with everyone how this incredible, inspiring person changed my life.
This man meant a lot to me, and to the rest of the school community as well. He was encouraging, supportive, humorous, passionate about his career, pushed us to be the best we could be, and most importantly, he genuinely cared about his students and their success. I remember the very first day of grade 7 music, we were all intimidated by this man with a scruffy grey beard and crazy hair of the same colour; he liked to call himself “the meanest teacher in middle school”, though he was everything but that.
I guess you can say my future – my present – started at that moment.
Aside from being my teacher, he was my mentor. Not only did he teach me how to play a brand new instrument, he also helped me realize my potential as a musician – look where that has taken me. My favourite memory of him that will always stick with me was that time when I finished writing a music test early, and was just sitting there, staring blankly at the wall. He came by my desk, opened up a book – I believe it was Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into Music – to a section about pursuing music in post-secondary education, and quietly told me to read it. He was the first person to suggest this, before even I or my parents started thinking about what I would do for university. It really struck me, because at that moment, he showed me how much faith he had in me, and that he would support me along the way. He most certainly did.
The last time I saw him was this past February when we both attended my high school’s annual school play. I told him that I would be applying for the music therapy stream, and about my troubles in learning a new piano piece. As always, he gave me some encouraging and wise advice, told me he was proud of what I was doing, and not to get discouraged.
I will forever be grateful for the love and support he showed me and other fellow students, and for being there with me at the start on my journey to becoming a real musician.
January 19, 2019:
It’s been a while. I hope you’re having a party up there, with all of your favourite musicians, still playing the trombone and marching to your own beat.
Thank you for all that you’ve taught me, for believing in me, and for giving me a nice big smile every time we meet that makes me feel like everything is okay.
You probably already know this (I like to think you’re watching over all your beloved students - especially them music kids), but I did it! My piece I was worrying about turned out okay in the end; I got into the music therapy stream and am now officially a Music Therapist Accredited!
You saw something in me - that quiet Asian, one of the flautists in your band, that pianist - before I saw it in myself. Sometimes, I lose confidence in my abilities and in my dreams, but you never did. You knew I was destined to do great things, to use my gifts for good. I’m not there yet, but I will keep at it.
I don’t know why I suddenly thought of you - really took time to keep you in my mind - for the first time since your peaceful passing, since we all bid you farewell. Maybe it’s you gently pushing me to remember my worth, my abilities, to keep pursuing my musical dreams. Maybe you’re looking at me, shaking your head thinking, “You broke my rules” (hopefully not too severely). Whatever it is, it’s working!
There are so many things I wish to talk to you about, so many more things still to learn from you. The fact that you’re gone from the world continues to sadden me, but thank you for being a blessing for many throughout your life.