Inside Out

Tonight I made a sad pilgrimage to the funeral home that has buried a generation of my family. I went not to the funeral of an elderly aunt this time, but to the calling hours of the mother of a student of mine. She died in a tragic accident.

There is something painfully poignant about guys who travel on skateboards sitting beside their grieving friend. Whatever roles we play in the classroom – me harnessing their attention to the literature of the canon; them stretching the limits just because – those are gone in the hush of a funeral home.

There they sat, in a solemn row, in freshly pressed out-of-season suits or in newly opened button down collared shirts or in their clean and best jeans with their hair combed. They didn’t know what to do or what to say, but they sat. Silently. They sat in a row. They watched. They listened. They paid attention.

All that they do not do by nature in a classroom.

The biggest surprise to me was who sat. The friends of the grieving boy were not the friends I realized he had. In death, the fierce loyalty and protection and love drove them through the savage pain and brought them to sit with a kind of courage beside their friend and give up an evening of their music and games and computers and other distractions of modern life because something inside came out – that love that exists among friends.

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