Yesterday, we said farewell to a good friend, Sharon.
Sharon was a classmate of mine while we pursued our Ph.D.s. Sadly, neither of us completed our degrees.
She was always a delightful classmate. She had a tendency to doubt herself, to question everything she said. This insecurity led her to be a fantastic teacher. Instead of thinking “I’ve got this now, I know how to teach this class,” she always looked for ways to do better, to teach better, to be the best that she could be. This constant search for excellence made her one of the most inspiring people I know.
She was a mother. Her daughter turned 13 on Saturday, the day of Sharon’s memorial. Sharon was devoted to her child; she constantly talked of the amazing experience of raising a child and her efforts to be the best mother and role model that she could be.
She would rock backwards slightly when she laughed, as if she were surprised to be laughing, but she didn’t stop laughing.
Sharon was a mentor to those that entered the program after her. Other new teachers looked to her for support and encouragement. I looked to her as well. When I taught a new class, one that she was a specialist in, I sought her counsel when designing my syllabus. That created a tradition among us—we always talked at the start of the semester as we planned our classes. Throughout the semester, we’d continue to touch base and provide each other with moral support for the daily stresses of teaching.
I wish that I knew Sharon better. We did not see each other often outside of work. I consider her my friend, but I know that I was only a very small part of her rich life.
Last spring, the announcement came through that she had been diagnosed with cancer. I spoke with a mutual friend and learned the type of cancer—clear cell ovarian. The diagnosis was a bad one—clear cell cancer is terribly difficult to treat. After her diagnosis, I was only able to speak with her once. We traded teaching stories, as that was the primary thing we shared. I am glad that we talked, and I want to remember that conversation.
I did not see her in person after her diagnosis. I am ashamed of this.
Sharon passed away in mid-December, less than a year after her diagnosis. She was a Catholic, and her memorial was held at a beautiful Catholic church where her daughter had received her first communion.
I cried throughout the memorial. Tears dripped down my face. I could not stop them. It was not a noisy cry—the tears just leaked out.
I am incredibly sad that I will not have more time with Sharon. We will not talk about teaching again. I am more sad that we didn’t have a chance to grow our friendship further outside of our shared work. I regret losing a future of friendship with her. As someone that also lost her mother when I was a teenager, I have an incredible sense of sympathy for her daughter. I never imagined what it would be like to be on the sideline of this sort of situation—to find myself in the position once held by my own mother’s friends. Sadly, since I am not close to Sharon’s daughter, I don’t know how to reach out to her and help her.
Sharon was a wonderful person, and I hope that her memory will live long after she has passed. I will do what I can to keep that memory alive.