He was a student in my eighth grade English class the first year I taught. He never stopped moving and he never stopped drumming on his desk. I watched him grow from a gangly, rather awkward young man that some compared to the old TV character Steve Urkle into a polished, debonair college man. He was full of humor and laughter, worked hard, and was a kind and generous young man. He was also honest and not afraid to speak the truth even to one of his teachers. I became a better teacher because he was brave enough to respectfully speak truth.
I remember the day he came into class and told me his father (a leader in our church who I loved and appreciated) had died of a heart attack. He had me convinced this was true for several minutes until he ‘fessed up that it was just a prank. I also remember the times he was working in the school cafeteria and gave me my lunch for free and how he worked hard to gather donations to take to families in need in our community. A prankster? Yes. A heart of gold? Yes.
I came to school on March 28, 2007 and the mood was somber. One of the teachers pulled me aside and told me that My Drummer Boy Student had been killed the night before. He was out with some friends from Quinnipiac University and he got on his motorcycle and pulled out to leave. No one seemed sure what had happened, but he was thrown from the bike and died a few minutes later in his girlfriend’s arms. Oh, this could not be.
At his funeral we heard about other pranks he had pulled such as convincing a family during his college days that he was an Egyptian Jew while attending their Passover. Another time he sneaked past a friend’s driveway warning system and scared one of his friend’s brothers. We also heard stories of his ability to form and maintain friendships and the many ways he had touched the lives of others. He was particularly sensitive to the individual needs of his friends even from a very young age.
My Drummer Boy Student is missed deeply and by many. His parents established a scholarship at our school in his honor.
Oh, yes! And, he actually took drum lessons after that first year I had him as a student and eventually played as part of our worship team.