Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A huge loss

My email inbox was flooded this morning with some devastating news. A former student of mine, Richie Herskowitz, lost his life after a 17 year long struggle with Cystic Fibrosis. Richie was one of my PAL students (Peer Assistance and Leadership) my final year of teaching. It was a close knit group of 8th graders, many of whom still keep in touch and are great friends now as high school seniors.

I was devastated to hear this news. This morning, I had a chance to briefly speak to his mother on the telephone. There were no words besides "I'm so sorry." The world has suffered a huge loss with the death of Richie. I've never met a neater kid. He was an example of courage, strength, and compassion. Three years ago, his lungs showed signs of rejection. Richie and his mom traveled to St. Louis (where his transplant took place) and began looking at anti-rejection options. At the same time, Allie was fighting her cancer and placed on an anti-rejection medication, ATG. Richie called me in the hospital one afternoon very upset. He told me about his rejection possibilities and about how the ATG he was taking was making him very ill. He was VERY upset that Allie was taking this medicine. "She's a baby, Mrs. Scott, she's just a baby." He hated that as hard as the ATG was on his body, a tiny baby was going through the same discomfort and hardship. He wasn't complaining for himself. He never did.

I have so many fun memories of Richie with his group. My favorite is probably from our "fashion show" presentation to the sixth graders about dress code. My students put on a skit for the sixth grade class to show what not to wear to school. We would have someone dress appropriately and someone inappropriately (such as too short of shorts, tank tops, or too baggy of jeans). At the very end of the skit, one of the kids told the students that most importantly, they didn't want to show up to school "dressed like this!" In walks Richie, all 60 lbs of him, in a clown outfit and a giant (I'm talking triple the size of his head) rainbow AFRO wig. The kids burst out laughing and Richie busted out into some crazy dance. I think that is the image I am going to remember Richie. With a giant afro.

Tomorrow, I am attending Richie's funeral with the PAL students. I am so very sorry for the loss of this amazing individual. At least I know someone else will be taking care of my Allie. A great companion for her--she loved a silly person--Richie sure knew how to be fun and silly!!

To the Herskowitz family--thank you for giving us all the gift of Richie in our lives. I know that I am a better person for knowing him.


3fishies said...

Oh, Jenny, I so remember the stories you told me about Richie. This is truly a GREAT loss to the world. He's an amazing kid! My prayers are with you tomorrow. I hope you feel them.


EquineSpirit said...

That is so sad! Thanks for sharing this story so his memory can live on! ((HUGS!!)) to you, his family, and friends. :(

Dana said...

I am so sorry for your loss, that is so sad! But, the stories you told of him truly show what a wonderful individual he was! I will be thinking about you, and Richie's family and friends.

Adrianne said...

What a wonderful and caring boy he was. Thank the Lord you have a that great memory of him as an entertainer!

Elle said...

I am so sorry for the loss of Richie. Sounds like he has touched many lives. It goes without saying a person that affects so many people - never truly is gone.