Brief Thoughts on Sad News

I’ve just received news of Facebook that a former student of mine from the UK has died after a long struggle with a congenital heart defect. Out of respect for her and her family I will not give her name but those who need to will know who I mean. I’m not about to ride on the back of her family’s grief and, to my knowledge, none of them are ever likely to read this so hopefully I won’t step on private grief.

Yet, I couldn’t finish my day (I was just about to go to bed) without writing something about this girl and the great sadness I feel right now. I’m grateful that over 21 years of teaching I have only endured a handful of deaths of students or ex-students. I can’t think of any pain worse for a teacher. It is horrible; utterly wretched.

I didn’t know this girl very well – she was always quiet and unassuming around school. I know she was unfailingly pleasant and charming. I can’t remember whether she invited me to be a friend on Facebook or the other way around after I left the UK but I know there would have been no shadow of doubt in my mind about having her as a friend. She wasn’t one of the ones who ‘hogged the limelight’ or made their presence felt all the time. She was just, quite simply, nice. Really nice. There was no ego there, no need to be all important. She was just happy in herself.

I wanted to make some grand philosophical point here – I wrote one too but I’ve deleted it; twice. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right. I can’t make something ‘right’ about a 19-year-old dying after a long struggle with her heart, I just can’t. She should mourn my death in years to come, not the other way around right now.

I hope that in the passing days, weeks and months, her family will be finding that something, that special something that gives them meaning to what has happened – something to carry on for. Right now, I can’t think what that might be.

I do know that tomorrow, when I wake up, the world will seem a little greyer than before and Facebook will be a sad place to visit.

I also know that I will renew my efforts to make sure that those who are important to me know it. Life is too short and too precious to waste – sometimes we need wake-up calls to remind us of that.


About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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12 Responses to Brief Thoughts on Sad News

  1. Sandee says:

    This was a beautiful tribute. What you’ve written about the soul of this young woman resonates.


  2. So very sorry to hear that, Ken. A very sad “wake-up all” but you are right… life is too short!


  3. Anonymous says:

    So sorry to hear this. It’s always a shock to hear that someone has died but it’s especially difficult when it’s someone young. However it sounds as if she touched a lot of people’s hearts and that is a beautiful legacy to leave behind. My thoughts and my heart go out to her family.


  4. renxkyoko says:

    I have a cousin who was really close to me who died at age 25 in 2007. His father is thankful they had him for at least 25 years, but the mother acts as if he’s still alive and coming home. His room has not been changed. His toiletries are still in the bathroom. She uses present tense everytime she talks about him. It’s really sad. He died from undetected heart disease.


  5. Norah says:

    Really sorry to hear this Ken. Life becomes hard to understand when young people disappear like this. It’s difficult to find a reason behind such unexpected sadness and that makes it even worse. I hope too that her family finds peace.


    • Thank you Norah – It is, indeed difficult but the tributes for this girl I’m seeing on Facebook tell me she was an inspiration to others and maybe that will be the thought of comfort. I guess there are many who live four times as long who don’t shine as brightly…


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