In memoriam

A student from my school passed away today after a long fight with cancer. I never taught him, but he left an impression on me nonetheless. He had been on palliative care for a while this year, and I believe that the loved ones he leaves behind have had chances for their goodbyes. I do hope so.

B was a quiet boy whose illness was obvious. Tall but frail-looking, he was often sighted outside our staffroom seeking remedials for the lessons that he’d missed. When I discovered that he was on palliative care and that his condition has been terminal for a while, the memory of him outside the staffroom struck me. How inspiring it was to realise that a person (who is more than a decade younger than I) knew he was staring Death in the face but nevertheless chose to carry on with Life. He chose Life till the very end. How difficult it must be to face such a bleak eventuality and not give in to desolation. Yet a young man had the courage to make that choice and live it.

I wish I had visited him earlier in the year to simply tell him that he inspires me. Now I will never find the chance and, truthfully, there’s a bit of shame in that — that I chose otherwise; that I didn’t show some humanity to someone who showed me what it means to choose life.

We sometimes forget that there are lessons to be learnt from those far younger than we are. It is humbling but we would be foolish to deny this.

What would you do if Death was staring you in the face? What would you choose? Would you even choose or resign that last mile of freedom? Would you have the courage to hold memories dear and not succumb to a bitter resentment? Would you make every breath count and make choices that enrich the precious days of your life? These are questions I inevitably face when I think of this young student. I wish I’d made the choice to know him better than simply knowing of him.

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