It arrives in the form of a grave email, the somber tone, the weight of the words taking time to sink. It steeps in me, slowly. I feel it in my eyes, in my throat, in the pit of my stomach. I call out to my children who are working on Math. I share with them that a dear teacher they have worked with for four years now has passed on, leaving a sun-shaped void in her place. They seem to hear but do not react. I notice their hands have stopped moving on paper.
“She wore pink lipstick,” Ammu says.
“I loved her,” Pattu says.
I stand rooted, unsure of what to say. Instead, I turn to Facebook, searching her name and finding a picture of a woman with an open smile. She is laughing, her partner by her side, her children surrounding her. I take in each detail in the picture. The joy, the happiness that seems to radiate off it. I realize I have seen her in the school building as I walk to and from IEP meetings. I have seen her on back to school nights. I think of her each time I pass the corridors of the school where her students’ art adorns the walls and hangs from the beams. The splashes of yellow and blue are striking. They make the school a home away from home.
I find Pattu next to me. I fold her in a hug. Her warmth seeps into me. I hold on longer than I mean to. I urge them to finish their homework. I feel focusing on the mundane will take their thoughts from the weight that is pressing on us. They struggle. I struggle.
“I am going to shower” Ammu declares as she heads upstairs. Pattu keeps at her Math, making mistakes that show a clear lack of concentration. I am tempted to correct her. Instead, I circle the wrong answers. I push her upstairs, reminding her not to waste water in the shower.
The evening is all about routine. Unexpected guests drop in. I make almond chutney as I chat. I set out cookies and forage through my pantry for treats. They leave. We linger at the door as if each moment has a bit more meaning than it did a day ago.
Dinner is done. I write a note to their homeroom teacher as I pack away unfinished work. I remember the school will be grappling with their loss. I imagine them coming to work the next day and feeling the physical loss, the gut punch when they see the pictures as they pass her room. I think of the students for whom art might have been a reprieve, an escape from other things their brains struggle to process. I know for my children, art is a world they find refuge in. Their colors, their pictures, they are an expression of grief, of longing, of happiness, of feelings they do not have the vocabulary for.
Death has tainted our home today, seeping into the walls, settling into the pores, reminding us to live each moment as if it were the last. The soul that left us today, I hope she is home, wherever that is. I hope she is painting huge yellow suns, vibrant rainbows, and deep red watermelons. I hope her spirit is watching over her family as we think about her.
Rest in peace dear teacher. You will be missed.