A year ago at this time, one of my former students suffered a brain aneurysm and died. His name was Jay Brownell and he was in his mid-twenties--far too young. I have dealt with the loss of students before, but this one was especially difficult for me because Jay was one of *my* students. He was one of those students who spent more time in my classroom than all the rest of the rooms combined. He took every class I teach, even if he wasn't interested in the subject, just for the sake of being in my class. He stayed after school to play chess with me. We played D&D together. He was a big, gentle, bear of a man. He had a rather warped sense of humor; after he went through my C++ programming class, I could never again use the term "dangling pointer" without thinking of him and laughing.
Everyone who knew Jay has a thousand stories; this is my favorite. When he was a student in my class, I think only a freshman, he joked about taking me out drinking. I told him he'd have to wait until he was 21, laughed, and forgot about it. Throughout his time in high school, he would periodically remind me that I had to drink a beer with him when he reached 21. Years later, he called me and insisted on taking my entire family out to dinner to thank me for being his teacher. And of course he ordered a couple of beers and we finally got to drink beer together. That's the kind of guy he was--sweet, funny, and generous.
I can't even imagine how difficult this past year has been for his family. Even though I maintained only sporadic contact with him after he graduated, I feel his loss every day. He was young and full of life, the kind of guy who made the world a better place. He was my student, and he may well have been the best teacher I ever had.