What is it about some people that they haunt our souls? We get stuck somehow between the past and present. People we can never truly exercise from our hearts. From our souls. This evening while letting the dogs out, I was reminded of my own ghosts — or rather one in particular.

There is a spider building a intricate web on my porch. I don’t have the heart to disturb her hard work. It’s so fucking beautiful and tragic at the same time. Knowing it will only last a fleeting moment and will soon be gone with tomorrow’s rain. Knowing she will never spin a web that spectacular ever again. Life is like that . . . never knowing when it’s your last web. The best one of all.

That was him. He was brilliant. Straight A’s. Smart as a tac. Pain in the ass. The kind of student that knew it all (and knew he did). Steely blue, intense eyes. Smarter than any textbook.

I lost him, my student, in December 2015. I was the first responder to a heroin overdose. Being an educator on a college campus is no joke. Sometimes it hurts like hell and breaks your heart. Tonight I keep thinking about him. And how he changed my life.

I’m reminded of the event next week. I’m one of the organizers for an initiative out of D.C. to address the opioid epidemic. I volunteer at our community harm reduction clinic. I have started conducting research on student/faculty perceptions about drug addiction from a health provider perspective. And with each breath, I think about the student. I remember how I felt the days after. Remember calling his parents. Organizing the college memorial service.

Every time I walk into the clinic and talk to a patient, I see him there. Right in front of me. I know I couldn’t have saved him. Maybe I won’t save anyone. But I can make people feel human, respected, loved. And that is worth having his ghost with me for the rest of my life. I welcome the haunt. Because it has changed me.

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