He made a difference…

By on Mar 22, 2018 in Autumn, Blog Posts, Cancer | 3 comments

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An anonymous poem

The kids in Joshua's grade had to write a reflective essay this week. They were asked to select a poem or song which reflected something important to them. Joshua's two best friends already told me about the assignment and how they intended to write about Josh. Then I got this note from Joshua's (and my) friend (and teacher to us both) about a different boy in the grade.

This is what the note said:

Basically when I taught the students how to do the reflective essay, I used the example of my childhood friend being murdered. Shane was a month younger than me and our fathers were children together. Shane was killed by a bouncer in 2015. You may have seen the story on carte blanche. The point I was making to the kids was that Shane's death changed me for life. I was suddenly very aware that my youth protected nothing and I hadn't been promised the future I had planned. Shane died during his final year of university. I got that wake up call in 2015. So I urged the students to think of their wake up call. An event in their lives that changed the way they do or view things one way or another.

So this boy comes to me a day later and he's distressed.

"Ma'am I'm so confused. I don't know what to write about. Nothing has ever happened to me. My parents are happy together. There's no broken family to write about. I've never lost a family member, not even a grandparent. I've always done well so I can't talk about overcoming failure. I've always had friends so I can't talk about loneliness. I wasn't friends with Josh so I can't speak authentically about losing him. It would be fake. I've been too lucky to write about anything meaningful. What do I do?"

So I asked him some probing questions to see if there was anything he hadn't thought of. We got back to the topic of Josh and he said that he wished he had been friends with him. He's upset that he missed out on knowing a great kid. I told him he was quite correct on the missing out but has Josh passing made you do anything? And he said, "Yes, I'm friendlier to people now. And I try to value my time better because who knows how much time is even left?"

I really hope this kid gets an "A".


  1. Deanna Soldner

    23rd March 2018

    Post a Reply

    Penny, I read your blog each time I see it and I have begun to feel I should start a journal of our journey with our daughter’s illness but not sure I would do it justice or even if I can remember all the things that she went thru. But just maybe it will help me with the sadness and loss I feel each time I think of her. We lost her in September, 13 months after diagnosis and she’s was a fighter, did every treatment that was presented to her in the hopes of staying with her family. But in the end she lost that fight and we who are left miss her each and every day and try to carry on in her name. She has a wonderful husband who is doing such a great job of being a single dad to their 13 year old daughter and 9 year old son. Thank you for the inspiration. Maybe I’ll give it a try. Hugs.

    • Penny Castle

      26th March 2018

      Post a Reply

      HI Deanna, Please do start writing. Today A friend, Nancy, sent me her first piece of writing that touched on her son’s fight with cholangiocarcinoma. I knew that my writing is helping me make sense of Josh’s death but I didn’t realise until I read Nancy’s writing how much reading about other people’s experience could help. Nancy made a comment about how she created a safe space for her son to die and, until that moment, I hadn’t realised how it would strike a cord for me. So please write and please let me read it :). P

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