Saying Good-bye

I’ve been planning to write this good-bye post since teaching my final class last week. It was to be a happy post, a lovely post full of good cheer. I had visions of sending my beloved fourth-year students out into the wide, exciting world with warm wishes of life happily ever after.

Monday’s events at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have changed my Polly-Anna ideas.

My thoughts have turned more inwardly, more fearful, more CIGed (cynical, impatient, grumpy). I told the Cute One that I seem to have lost hope. “I’ve lost hope in humanity,” I said. He told me I was channeling Kurt Vonnegut.

I’ve heard it said, “At times like this, one has to…. to try to carry on.” But what does that mean, anyway?! No, I say. Don’t just carry on. Stop. Let’s think about this, let’s really think about this. What are we doing to ourselves? What are we carrying on for?

How can I be happy that these wonderful MSVU students who have given me such happiness—and the occasional pain in the ass—are alive when 29 of their peers are not? And yet I am. (We now know that four of my peers were lost to the gunman.) Perhaps my students embody the juxtaposed emotions I am feeling: where there is despair, there must also be light.

As a communication scholar, I should be detaching myself from this event. I should be analyzing how the CBC is covering event. I should be glued to the television and vomicating (Prisca’s word, not mine) my way through CNN’s broadcasts. I should be on FaceBook analyzing how people are coming together to make sense of it all. Instead, I am sitting in front of my own computer thinking about how relieved I am that this tragedy didn’t happen on our campus, and that my students are ok; instead of trying to understand the absurdity of the world they live in, they’re struggling with the mark I gave them on their final paper. I think about how happy I am that I’m working in Canada and not my “homeland,” even though it was in Montreal that something so utterly and eerily similar happened most recently. I think about a Globe & Mail quote of a young man who was on the Virginia campus. He said, “I guess this could happen anywhere.” I don’t want to accept this. Where is the HOPE?!

My lovelies are getting their grad pictures taken, they’re planning big parties, they’re writing me for references for grad school or their job search. Just a few hours south the way the crow flies, hundreds of teachers like me are mourning lives cut short. Moms and dads are having their world torn right out from beneath them. Brothers and sisters are desperately trying to remember the last holiday they spent with their sibling. Grandmas and grandpas are picking out dark-coloured shirts for a funeral instead of bright straw hats for a graduation.

God help us all, would You? I don’t want to say good-bye.

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