This is Maylin. The last time I recall working with her, she was wearing black and white plaid with her hair died green. I immediately remembered what it was like to approach the end of high school and enter adult world. It almost made me recoil knowing she was soon to move on. The world can be harsh and difficult to navigate when you’re young (especially, as a young woman). But I sent out an all encompassing prayer for Maylin and her peers to take care.
I never considered the feelings or experiences I would have as a teacher. The transient nature of students moving through or in and out of schools. The turn-style of Principals and management methodology. I believed I could help, whatever that means. And it does mean something…quite a few things. But to put them into practice successfully you’d have to be every local and state institution that supports and protects children.
So we lost touch, life transpired and I receive a phone call telling me Maylin had died. This, coupled with the recent news that a friend and colleague and Maylin’s guidance counselor suffered a stroke and was on life support, was news I wasn’t prepared to receive. However, I began to wonder what happened to her. I needed confirmation from a reputable news source that she was dead. Searches produced Twitter requests to look for the missing Bronx girl last seen at a gas station in Harlem. The television told me that a woman in Queens and another in Massachusetts had been assaulted and killed. Nothing in this news cycle told me about my former student.
So I sent out a tweet apologizing for not protecting her. From what exactly, I don’t know. It received over 200 likes and 200 retweets. More than the number of followers I have, more than I expected would see it or care. This is something I chanted for because I thought there might be some redemption in speaking for her, or saying sorry. Even though it may seem like a small number, this translates to over 25,000 interactions… They know her name, but not her story.
Through the grapevine I discovered that a colleague had seen brief news on Spanish television. Couldn’t find that either. It’s disappointing that “mainstream” media did not cover the situation for one day. We find out who gets shot and stabbed but what of a missing girl?
Maylin’s sister created a gofundme page for funeral expenses. I again chanted that they would be as fortunate as others who received 7 or 10 times the amount requested. They beat their goal but it wasn’t what I had hoped. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that the family will bury their child, sister, cousin, friend with dignity.
I’m no stranger to death. To keep it current, in 2015 three family members passed and in 2016 three people I worked with passed. I know this won’t stop. Death is a part of life. It’s just been a rough year and a half.
My Buddhist sisters remind me that Maylin is now in “the land of tranquil light”. It calmed my heart because I knew no matter how much I wanted to reverse everything that transpired, she is free of suffering. All levels of suffering. I hold a bit of human greed for the people I care about, I want to keep them on this plane. But, this part of the journey is just that, this part of the journey.
A poem for her. “Letter to the Local Police” by June Jordan (Brooklyn/Berkeley). She knew this one.