A Tribute to the Unforgettable

She was a woman of many words—she always knew what to say at any given moment.

Mrs. Stark knew who I was before I discovered it myself. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself. Her smile, as genuine and kind as it was, made me want to achieve more in life; her smile made me want to make her proud.

She saw something in my writing. She sat with me each day at lunch, where we ate and read together. Each Monday, she gave me a pile of her own books for me to read at home and each Friday, I returned them, fully read. We sat for hours side by side, telling each other our favorite parts, confiding in each other the parts that brought tears to our eyes. It was that year that I fell in love with literature and the words that filled the books we read together. She was forty years older than me and not a year made the slightest difference. Mrs. Stark was my best friend.

I was only a kid, but she told me that I was going to be a writer and that she couldn’t wait to read my books someday. That’s a dream I wish could have seen come true.

9 years ago, Mrs. Stark told me she was diagnosed with cancer. I heard the “C- Word” before, but it was something I could not comprehend. She was going to be okay, because bad things don’t happen to good people, I convinced myself. It wasn’t until she could no longer teach, something she was so passionate about, that I realized the true severity of her health problems.

I emailed and sent her letters every day, telling her about the books I read. I reread every reply she sent over and over again. It wasn’t the same; I couldn’t hear her cheerful laugh or see her rosy cheeks that seemed to turn redder each time she smiled: The two things I looked forward to each time I entered that classroom.

A few months later, I heard Mrs. Stark was coming to school to visit. Those next few weeks waiting to see her felt like an eternity.

Finally, she came. I ran as fast as I could and I stood at the doorway, but I did not recognize the woman in front of me. Her cheeks weren’t the only part of her that was red— her entire body was. Her tired, kind eyes saw mine. She held out her arms straight, unable to move them from the treatment for her breast cancer. She wore a hat to cover her bald head, replacing her golden sun bleached hair. She looked at me and she smiled, an image that I still think of when looking for comfort. Her smile, it was exactly the same. Still after months of treatment, Mrs. Stark was the most genuine and beautiful women I knew and respected. Although she could not hug me, I hugged her and refused to let go.

That was the very last time I saw Mrs. Stark, yet it is one of my most beautiful memories with her. Through thick and thin, her smile radiated. She pursued her passion for teaching children with every ounce of energy she had. Mrs. Stark will always and forever be my hero, my inspiration, mentor and the reason I believe in myself today.

Mrs. Stark, you may be gone, but your legacy will always live on.


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