I've experienced death before. Death of grandparents. Death of a friend's baby. Death of colleagues and people in my circle. I'm 35, so it would be odd if I had not experienced it. In fact, the last few months have been rife with death. It started with a woman named Lisa, who owned the bookstore that my husband loved going to in his hometown. He'd known her for about 20 years. I knew her in passing. Then my husband's cousin's wife lost her mother. We knew her too, but we were mostly sad for Karen's loss. My best friend from junior high, Kim, lost her mother suddenly to a stroke. My grief was deeper there. I knew Kim's mother well, had spent many hours in her home and under her care as a child, and she was my Mother's age. It hit home.
A few weeks later, we found out that an old family friend, one we'd lost track of, had passed away.
It's felt like every few weeks in the last few months, there has been someone else.
Last night, Ray and I went to see Avatar in the movie theater. I have other posts in me about that movie, but when I came home, my Mom told me that Kim had called. She'd heard just that evening that Rolly had died.
Roland Denis Ouimet was my eighth and ninth grade teacher. I was 13 when I met him. I had only been back in Canada for a year at that time. My family was the lone military family in that area, and there was little understanding for the places we'd traveled to and the life we led. I was bullied mercilessly. Rolly discovered that I loved to read, so he not only helped me to complete my required classwork faster, but then he fed me the books. I read more and more. Soon, I read through the entire library in our little school. He was creative; we had one day a cycle (we had a 7 day school cycle, rather than a Monday to Friday schedule) where we went to the high school in the next village and he got permission for me to borrow books. He spoke to me and guided me through reading.
He set me on the path that would lead me to do a literature degree and become a writer. He believed in me.
For a long time, Rolly was my teacher and then my mentor. Most of all, he was my friend. For almost 23 years now, he has been my friend.
And now, suddenly, at the age of 59, he is gone.
I am not sure how to process this loss. The grief is raw. I have no details. And I have no tangible way to say goodbye to this man who was a friend and a mentor. I feel like there are still things to say. Questions to ask. And I feel this grief in a way that is raw and encompassing.