January has been a difficult time for me for several years now.
It was in January of 2004 that I first discovered my father had a relentless cancer, and was given 6 months to live (he fought for nearly 8).
It was in January of 2006 that the lives were needlessly taken from 7 people I knew and loved... 6 of them in 2 separate car accidents. The seventh was my dear friend Jenny, who died in her sleep due to an aneurysm. She was one of the dearest friends I have ever been blessed with; I still miss and love you, Jenny.
I have been grieving this week for a dear friend who is losing her father to a rough struggle with cancer.
Today, I received more news that makes my heart deeply sad. Marcie Sidie was my Spanish teacher in jr high/high school. I took classes with her for 5 years, but more than my teacher, she was a friend. She is responsible for forming the first support group I was ever a part of - and no one knew she was doing it until it was done. This is because while most students take 1-2 years of foreign language in high school, there were 7 of us that stayed with her for the long haul. She was gone a lot - in and out of treatments for her cancer that would go in and out of remission. And we were supportive as we knew how to be without being invasive. We sent cards, flowers, balloons - and not least of all our love and prayers. It was always a celebration when she was able to return to us. We did not always learn a lot as a result of having frequent substitutes who did not know Spanish, but we always managed to work independently well enough to legitimately pass the course.
So the 8 of us - her 7 students and Señorita Sidie herself, grew to be very close. We laughed, played games, taught (at the elementary school), and learned together. When we had reason to celebrate, we celebrated together. When there was reason to be sad, we took time out of our class to mourn together and support each other. When the planes hit the towers that dreadful morning of September 11, 2001, we sat in speechless terror and watched together. Then she was the only teacher we had who was willing to talk about it and debrief with us rather than respond with "if our lives stop and we talk about it, we're letting them win."
In the process of our relationship-building, she won our trust and as such, I learned more from her than any other teacher I've had. Further, she provided a space for us that allowed some unlikely folks to become the best of friends, relationships that I still keep up with today (even if only via facebook and gatherings are seldom due to distance).
On Monday, the same day that new life entered this world through my close friends' first son, little James Bennett Baker, Señorita Sidie passed away. The obituary did not list her cause of death, and from afar my best guess is that she finally lost her decade-long struggle with cancer.
I certainly wish the 7 of us could be together for one last time at her services on Friday, saying something ridiculous in Spanish that I know would give her a smile. Since we can't, I am pleased to know that many of her students who have come after us will be honoring her by doing just that. As for me, I honor her with this farewell and an old picture from our final day of class only days before our high school graduation.Rest in Peace, Ms Sidie. We'll miss you.