There was no greeting, no introduction to cushion the blow. Just six words in your Facebook inbox that announced a tragedy.
You spent eleven years of your life studying in a strict all-girls Catholic school. It is a place that continues to be a big part of who you are today, a place that shaped the person you have become, a place that taught you a lot of things.
You were taught the different parts of a sentence, with the importance of subject-verb agreement being drilled into your head again and again and again. But you weren’t taught how to react when you hear that someone you went to school with for over a decade passed away suddenly, leaving two very young children behind.
You were taught how to set up the bunsen burner for evaporation. But you weren’t taught how to reach out to her mother who you’ve also known for many years, who used to check the many excuses you had for not making it to school on time and for not making it to school at all, who must be heartbroken and in unspeakable pain right now.
You were taught the importance of dressing modestly, of choosing cheap socks over expensive ones, of making sure your skirt’s hem was always two inches below the knee. But you weren’t taught what you can do to make things a little easier for her daughters who will now have to grow up without their mother.
You were taught how to fold the flag properly, how to be careful not to let it touch the ground. But you weren’t taught how to deal with the helplessness that you feel as you wonder if there’s something you could have done to help before it was too late.
You were taught to dance with three clay pots balanced on your head. But you weren’t told what to do if you have countless questions and no way of getting real answers.
You were taught the cross stitch, the back stitch, the blanket stitch, even the dreaded spider web stitch, every single stitch imaginable. But you weren’t prepared for how strange it would feel that the world continues to move, despite the horrible tragedy, despite the big loss, despite the fact that you want it to stop even for just a little bit because you want to grieve.
You were taught the importance of reaching out to the less fortunate, of leaving your comfort zone and heading out to where you’re needed so you can make a difference. But you weren’t taught how to cope with feeling guilty over not making a bigger effort to reconnect with her when she was just a few clicks away, when she was still alive, when she could still feel that you cared and that you were there.
You were taught how to transpose notes – heck you cried over that stupid lesson – but you weren’t taught how to deal with losing one of you. Yes, she was one of you. She was a friend. She was a sister.
There is no class, no exam, no Catholic school that could have prepared you for the big gaping hole that this death has left in your heart.
There are many things your school didn’t teach you, things that you desperately need now. But your beloved Catholic school did teach you other things.
It taught you to be strong. It taught you to be courageous. It taught you to be compassionate and to be loving. It taught you to embrace life with passion. It taught you to find lessons in everything. It threw surprises your way and watched proudly as you bravely faced each one of them. It taught you the importance of pushing your boundaries, of letting go of your limits, of doing things you didn’t think you could do. It taught you to be selfless. It taught you to make the most out of every single day. It taught you to use time wisely. It taught you not to waste a single second. It taught you about goodbyes.
And all these things will carry you through as time attempts to heal the hole in your heart. And all these things will carry you through as you honor her memory, as you focus on her life well lived instead of her tragic end, as you make sure you never forget.
And you will never forget.