Two years ago, I would rush from school as soon as I could. I would get into my car and drive 30 miles until I reached Maple Crest, the nursing home where my grandmother was living out her last moments.
I would stay there until I was almost too tired to drive and I would almost always end up in tears before I reached the big hill out of the town, driving 45 minutes until I was exhausted and would fall into bed. I would wake in the morning and repeat the whole thing.
She was dying of cancer and I watched her change from a feisty, stubborn woman that still had much to do in this world to someone who wouldn't accept the watermelon or strawberry ice cream that I tried to feed her, the only foods that she would still eat in the last weeks. I watched her become listless, moaning in pain but still refusing the drugs that would calm her. And now I'm watching one of my students do the same for his best friend, a 15 year old, who lies dying of leukemia.
I asked him to stay after class earlier this week. We talked a little, but were continuously interrupted. Our conversation ended with no resolution, other than he knew that I understood where he was, I knew the pull that he was dealing with, and that I would give him whatever I could to make this easier.
It's been two days since we talked. I still don't know how either of them is doing. I sit alone at my desk and stare despondently at the wall. I was never taught how to deal with this.