Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

December 30, 2008

I went to Lloyd’s funeral this morning.  It was a gut-wrenching experience.  As I had feared, there was an open casket.  It killed me to see Lloyd’s lifeless body lying there.  And when they closed the casket and his relatives wailed their grief, I thought I was going to lose control.  I did cry, pretty much through the whole service.  But I managed to suppress the sobs that were on the verge of bursting out of me, and ended up with an excruciating headache from the effort.

I almost lost it another time when service programs were passed out, and there was a photo of Lloyd on the front.  It was taken at his high school graduation.  He had a smile that could melt the most hardened heart.

I attended the funeral with two co-workers.  One of them was Lloyd’s English teacher.  When we received our programs, she leaned toward me, pointed at Lloyd’s picture and said, “He wouldn’t have been able to wear that cap and gown if it hadn’t been for you.”

I guess that’s true.  In order to graduate, Lloyd had to turn in an English Anthology – a portfolio project that is the equivalent of a final exam.  Lloyd was having a lot of trouble with this project.  His teacher tried to help him, but she became frustrated because she couldn’t give him the one-on-one attention he needed.  (She had a class full of needy students, and there’s only so much time in a day.)  Since Lloyd was a special pet of mine, I made it my mission to help him with his Anthology project, which would ensure that he would walk the stage with his class on Graduation Day.

For weeks, Lloyd came to see me every day during his free period.  We worked together to find the required components of the project, and I helped him to write his essay.  (I made him write it, and then I made corrections and suggestions.)  I helped him to create a Works Cited page.

After the projects had been graded and returned to the students, Lloyd raced to the Computer Lab to share the good news with me.  There, at the top of his Anthology folder, was a big, beautiful 98.   He was so happy and proud.   It was the highest grade Lloyd had ever received.  And he earned it.  I didn’t do the work for him.  I just helped him to understand the requirements of the project.  While we were working on the Anthology, Lloyd would frequently say that he didn’t know what to write.  I would then ask a question about how the magazine article or artwork or song lyrics related to his theme.    He would tell me, and I would say, “See?  You do know!”

So many of our students doubt themselves.  They don’t want to answer questions or join class discussions for fear of looking foolish, or, even worse, stupid.  It’s terribly sad.

But, on the day he showed off his 98, there was no sign of self-doubt in Lloyd’s shining eyes.  There was pride and there was joy.  And there was gratitude.  He gave me a hug that lifted me off the ground.  He thanked me for everything, especially for helping him to graduate.

Sadly, all that potential will not be lived up to.  The streets have claimed yet another young life.

My spirit is so heavy.  I don’t know how many more young people I can bear to say goodbye to.  This one leaves a really big hole in my heart.

P.S.  Right after I posted this entry, I checked the online edition of our local newspaper and was dismayed to read that two former students were shot around 2:00 pm this afternoon.  I sat next to them at Lloyd’s funeral this morning! Fortunately, their injuries are not life threatening.   Still, this is too much.   Much too much.

Song of the Day:  Candle in the Wind by Elton John


11 Responses to “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light”

  1. Such a sad story. I am glad that you helped get him as far as he did. Sorry for pain This caused you.

  2. sasha said

    You’re such a special lady in so many ways. I’m sorry for this tragedy. 😦

  3. LA said

    The guns. The goddamn guns. How is it there is so little else that offers the faux strength and allure? If only Lloyd and all the other Lloyds could have more 98% moments maybe the guns would lose their sparkle. ~LA

  4. Kathy said

    That’s just so damned heartbreaking.

    Now you need to go see Marley & Me because you will not be able to not cry therefore will not have a trying not to cry headache.


  5. Michael said

    What a sad ending to what could have been (and in fact was, for a time) a happy story. You made a difference in a young man’s life, no matter how short that life turned out to be.

  6. terri t. said

    Just try to remember that day when Lloyd came to you to show off his best grade ever! That was probably one of his happiest days. I don’t understand why so many young people believe there is nothing for them and lose their lives.
    I hope you go to my blog and clink on The Interview….
    As for the new Wally Lamb book…yes, I liked it, yes it is sad and involved and has so many twists and turns. I felt that the last 100 pages or so were just too long…much as I felt about his other two books. But, I would certainly recommend it to you – especially since you are in the educational field.

  7. I’m sending you positive vibes…the same kind that you gave Lloyd when he was here. Please be kind to yourself.

  8. Stefani said

    The best grade ever! At least Lloyd had that moment. You’re a great educator, Stephanie.

  9. What a tragedy! At least you made a difference in his short life.

  10. Jeanette said

    So sad..there are far too many young men dying needlessly!

  11. LeAnn said

    When I first heard my son Michael died at age 20 (seven years ago this month), I couldn’t understand how the world kept going on around me like nothing happened. The sun was shining, the horns were honking, the laundry needed washing, kids were laughing and playing and to me everything came to an abrupt halt. When the words “My son died” came out of my mouth, it was barely audible, but it seemed like an earth shaking roar. Since that day, whenever I hear of the death of another Michael or another Lloyd, those sensations resurface as fresh as the day I learned my son died. I used to want to go around the world like Superman and make sure no other young person ever died again. I now know that it is going to happen as certainly as the world is going to keep turning.

    If someone had written about my son as you did Lloyd, I would want to read it and have a copy. I highly encourage you to share this with them.

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