The hundreds of cards and letters we received when Andrew died, had been sitting in bundles in a box in the living room, waiting for me to “tackle” them.
When they first started arriving, within a day or two of Andrew’s death, I read every single one. Soon though, I became so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers that arrived, day after day, that I stopped reading them and put them aside for the day when I felt ready to read them.
Yesterday I took the lot into my room, and went through them, one by one.
I was deeply moved by a letter from one of Andrew’s favorite teachers of all time. Reading her letter again now, I could see why Andrew had loved her; she truly understood him, likely because she too had some of Andrew’s qualities.
With the letter, she included an email that Andrew had sent her:
Dear Mrs. XYZ, Andrew writes. I would like to thank you for your instruction last year. You succeeded in teaching what those such as Oscar Wilde consider unteachable. My experience in your classroom was invaluable to me, and I quoted you in the essay which gained me entrance to college. While I understand that you seem to have been punished for your approach to teaching, I think you were entirely correct in the way you went about things. Though some of my classmates seem to think that test grades are the be all and end all of classroom instruction. I hope this email finds you well.
Your most obedient servant,
The following is a note Mrs. XYZ wrote following Andrew’s email:
This note demonstrates both Andrew’s wonderful sense of humor and his kindness. After I was caught in the middle of some English department politics, my department chair assigned me to a position in the Middle School. I received notes and visits from supportive students, but, as you can see, Andrew’s sentiments were most encouraging. You obviously raised him with good values – how many teenagers can express heartfelt kindness and medicinal humor as well as your Andrew?
This is the letter she wrote.
He was a deeper thinker, a quicker perceiver, and a more sensitive soul than most others (of any age).
Once Andrew understood that I appreciated his quick wit, he would always take a seat in class close to where I could hear his spontaneous and clever commentary, even if he was too shy to share it with the entire class.
While I tried to keep him on track in an academic world that sometimes held little meaning, Andrew’s “old soul” and intuitive awareness of the more important human qualities – patience, consideration, kindness, and offering of unique and creative perspectives, won me over.
On one occasion, when he felt badly about missing a paper deadline, I told him that I knew it was because his mind was often on some of the more interesting and serious questions/matters of the world and it was difficult for a thinker to always keep on top of practical details.
Sadly, I assured him that he would find his rightful place in a college setting where he would find a broad choice of studies, activities, and friends.
Perhaps he knew better, but he did appreciate being recognized as an intelligent and unique student.
He made my world a better place in the brief time we crossed paths, how many days he brightened, and how many others can never forget him.
He reminded us of what was truly important, and will keep him forever in my heart.
Dear Andrew’s teacher, I have no adequate words to express my heartfelt gratitude for the joy Andrew derived from having you as his English teacher in his junior year in high school.
What a privilege to have had such a son, and what an unbreachable void has been left by his going.
I will miss you forever Andrew. I will never stop looking for you until I find you again.