I worked with Alex about six years ago. I remember how he used to sit on the floor, his back leaning against the yellow yoga ball that had udders (seriously, that’s what it looked like).

I remember Alex’s intelligence. How he easily crafted analytic responses to literary analysis questions. I remember how he built in evidence and thought into his points.

I remember Alex the following year at his junior year prom. How he helped drive my son to and from the dance because my son didn’t have his license yet. Alex wasn’t really friends with my son, but he was that kind of a person. Generous. Thoughtful. Giving.

I remember Alex a year later. At baccalaureate. Standing on the dais and singing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. This was the last time I saw Alex except for when I read his name at graduation.

He had such poise. The way he tucked himself into his small frame and unleashed his voice and released his emotions in such a real and honest way. I can sing. But I can’t emote while I sing. But Alex’s voice was rich with confidence. Strength. Determination.

He was going into his future and he was going to succeed.

Alex died last week.

In the intervening four years, I would occasionally see his picture when I scrolled though my phone and found the prom pictures from years before. He had stood next to my son, an odd pairing given that my son was almost six inches taller than Alex. But his dignity radiated from him. His self-confidence.

Learning about Alex’s death yesterday broke me. I was sitting at my desk in my classroom and faced the window and stared out at the a deep blue sky. The scattered clouds. The forest-line bordering the softball and baseball fields. I searched for answers that don’t exist because I don’t understand. Just don’t understand how I can be nearing my fiftieth birthday. And I don’t know that he reached his twenty-second.

I called my son. I tried to find a way to ease him into the news. And instead I just blurted out truths that I couldn’t say without sobbing. The severance. The sense of ending without reason. Understanding.

I wanted to curl my son into the nook of my arms and enwrap him within peace. Not so much because he was hurting. But because I was afraid of the hurt he could face. What are the pains other feel when the voice disguises the truth?

How does one read past the visage of one truth to see the real which thrives underneath?

I still hear Alex’s voice. I still hear him singing. See him and how his back curled. His hand fisted at his side.

I still believe in his words.

Even if they are now silent.

Love you. Mean it.

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