On Losing Toni
The news came as a tidal wave to my heart. I was reading routine emails and there it was, in black and white. Words which announced that a precious Life had been lost too early, too soon. I read them. Maybe it was a mistake ? But when I read again, it was still there; the news that you were gone from this Earth . I took a breath and told my friends who were sitting with me. We tried to process the news … I couldn’t – and still can’t : I am numb.
I met you a few years ago. One of my best friends was helping you deal with some difficult stuff at school and in your life – and she brought you to my class. “Have you met Mme Gingras ? No – she answered. And the rest is history. You became part of my daily Life. You found a place in my heart. Most every day – you’d show up in my class and I’d sneak you some food. We’d have a conversation – and as you left I would tell you that I loved you. Like a wounded little bird, you stepped back the first time I told you and you asked: “Why would you? I’m nothing. “One day, you’ll save lives … you’ll see.”, I answered. You walked out. The next day, when you came back and had a bagel at around 10h23 am – you told me : yeah – I love you too Madame. You became part of the reason I loved coming to work. You came in and made me smile. School was not your forte – but you eventually made it in every day. People helping you knew you had potential. I saw through your walls: you had the soul of a nation growing and brewing within you : you just had not discovered it … We knew – I only wish that you could have really seen how your smile made us soar and how proud we were when you aced a test or just showed up …
One day, you sat down with me and you told me your story. Your words could fill books. Your wisdom could inspire philosophers. When you left my class that day, I felt the wounds within your heart. Everyone was trying to help you … but you were drifting unto a land which kept us away. You chose your confidentes. You chose your actions. You reacted to Life’s unfair dealings the best way that you could with what you knew. You were incredibly sensitive – yet it seemed you were so tough – shielded by the veil you were creating around you to protect yourself. Loneliness and heartbreak show up in many ways … and they seemed to have found you .
Life moved on.
You were so young – living moments too painful to count – to difficult to solve – yet you remained beautiful. You still showed up in my classroom – stopped in for a hug – and now openly told me that you loved me. Words are sometimes empty but yours were full of sincerity. You trusted me enough to accept me holding your space and for that, I shall always be grateful.I have never been more proud as the day you graduated. You introduced me to your family. You hugged me and you shined – in your regalia. You were so proud – the world had opened up to you and you had decided that it was time to start a new chapter. You were so young. So smart and so alive . Your energy beamed – and as you accepted your diploma on stage, I shed a few tears. What would Life bring to you, beautiful young one ? I had seen in a vision that you were a great Shaman waiting to emerge: to teach and guide others on their own paths – when their own lights had gone dim … I still believe this – and I know that somehow, somewhere, you will continue to inspire us along with the thousands of others who now surround you and hold your light as we dry our tears.
I can’t believe that you’re gone.
I last saw you a few weeks ago. You sauntered in my class – glowing and looking beautiful. Life was great – or so you said … I like to think that at that very moment – you WERE happy – and that you did think that Life WAS ok … or else I’ll be forever sad … Before you left, you asked me if I had my other book yet – and I told you that I would keep one for you. I did – and I’ll give it to your family at an appropriate time. You were, after all, the only student who read my first one from cover to cover. You changed my Life – and I intend to see that yours keeps shining within my heart. I hear your words: “Love you Madame ….: … If only you knew how many people loved you back, beautiful Toni.
Fly little one. Fly free and inspire us to do better. Touch the hearts of those who need you and help us help others who, like you, hold a burden so heavy that they feel the need to leave our realm. Your Life was not in vain. You cannot – and will not – ever be forgotten.
I was just a teacher … but you will forever be more than ‘just’ a student. J’taime Toni ! Stay out of trouble … Oh – and I’m still waiting for you to make me my moccasins. Don’t forget – I want a heart on them to remind me of how much I love you ….