Happy 40th birthday, from Ava

I received a beautiful email today from one of Kerry’s past students. I am going to attach the emails here.

2 thoughts on “Happy 40th birthday, from Ava”

  1. The Last Scenario

    He was an angel. He was the best person I had ever met. He was a calm and happy person, especially as a teacher. The best teacher I could think of. Oh my god! I can’t say enough.
    Looking at his calm blue eyes could make me forget all my worries. It seemed he belonged to another world, a world far better than this one. I have never known anyone who could explain things, even complex ideas, so simply that anyone could understand.
    I think because he had such a good heart that he could place himself at the position of a young foreigner like me. I can never imagine him being angry.
    He was blond, and whenever he wore his black sweater, his face would shine like the sun. He was born on May 16th 1967, which made him 32 years old when we met in 1999. I had come to the United States when I was sixteen to stay and continue my education here.
    Days before my arrival, my aunt had already enrolled me in his class at Test Magic, an English as a second language center. Let me tell you a little about my aunt. She is very special to me, and anybody who knows her. Maybe because she is an artist imprisoned in the body of a dentist.
    Interestingly, on the first day of the class, my aunt and me had woken up late and left the house in such a hurry that I forgot to change my slippers and only noticed it when we were in front of the school. I ended up changing my bright yellow slippers with my aunt’s shoes. I was lucky that we wore the same size. When we got there, the class had already started, and the teacher was sitting behind his desk and as I remember he had a maroon woolen sweater on, and he was sipping on a can of Mountain Dew, which I later found out was his habit, like drinking coffee.
    There were only two of us in the class; the other student was a young Japanese guy. A few days later a girl from Thailand joined us. We had class every day of the week except on weekends. Most of the time, I was the only student in his classes, and so it was the best hours of the day for me. It seemed that I was traveling to another world, maybe his world. He was from a world in which people would matter to each other, talk to each other. I remember once he brought me the DVD of his favorite movie, which was Harold and Maude. Like the atmosphere of that movie, in his world everything was possible, and people lived according to the needs of their hearts. As I said before, he was from another world. It was like heaven, so pure and serene.
    He grew up in Minnesota, taught English in Tokyo for three years, and settled in San Francisco. He had been teaching English as a second language here for the past 11 years. Later I found out that he was also a poet and used to teach Art History in college. Every day in his class, I had to write an essay on a different subject. I still vividly remember one of those subjects. It stated: what would you do if you where told you had only 24 more hours to live?
    He had a little book that was filled with many questions. The kind of questions that I had never considered before, like difference between internal and external reality. He would use his little book to choose a topic by opening it randomly. The more I got to know him, the more interesting he became. I was greatly inspired by his passion of teaching. Once he recommended me to read a book, called The Catcher in the Rye. It was interesting that later a few other people asked me whether I had read that book since the character in the book reminded them of me.
    At the time, I was a teenager, and I had just begun to study English and. But after six months my plans had changed, and I returned to Iran in the spring of 2000. The last day I went to the school, he gave me a card and had gotten all the people working in Test Magic to sign it.
    On that occasion, the staff also gave me a gift. It was a beautiful, delicate silver necklace. I was so happy that they cared so much about me. It was a wonderful moment; and I always remember that day whenever I wear the necklace.
    While I was back home, Kerry was the person I missed the most. We kept in touch by emailing each other for a while, but as he was not very comfortable with computer, we slowly lost contact. However, it did not stop me from remembering him and wondering about him all the time.
    I always imagined coming back to the US, and this time I was sure he would be the person I wished to see the next morning after my arrival. I wondered how he had changed, and as I had changed, I didn’t know if he would recognize me. Once my aunt was passing by the school and had gone to see if he was still working there. She told me that he had physically changed so much that she didn’t recognize him; he had become more fashionable and even changed his hairstyle. He had apparently looked so different that my aunt had actually asked him whether he knew Kerry. Then she got shocked when he recognized her and started asking about me.
    It took me a few years to get a visa to come back to the US, and of course his class was the first place I wished to see again. The day after my return to San Francisco, I went to see him. In the late the afternoon, my aunt and I took the Muni –N Judah line– to go to Inner Sunset, where Test Magic was located. While going through the streets of San Francisco, I saw him everywhere. I imagined every possible scenario:
    – I will be disappointed to find out that he no longer teaches there.
    – He still teaches there and he is thrilled to see me again.
    – I see him, but as he is busy teaching, he does not notice me behind the window. I can hardly contain myself.
    The sharp sound of the Muni’s bell interrupted my train of thoughts. I came back to this world and found myself a short walk from Test Magic center. Meanwhile, my excitement had spread to my aunt, and I could tell by the way she walked that she was almost as excited to see him as I was. She was exited because she appreciated him as much as I did. She had even baked him some scones before that he enjoyed very much.
    We walked in and were greeted by Erin, Kerry’s friend and the director of the center, who had halted his class when he saw us. Erin used to substitute for Kerry at times. He seemed both happy and sad to see me; the sad part I couldn’t understand but I could feel it. The minute I mentioned Kerry’s name, he asked us to step out. I guess there is no right way to deliver bad news. I heard out of the blue, “Kerry died two months ago.”
    Erin was still talking, “You have changed a lot. When did you come back? Are you
    g o i n g + ….
    It was getting harder and harder for me to hear his voice and even harder to comprehend. It is amazing, how I hadn’t been expecting this last actual scenario. At first I was shocked and didn’t feel anything. Then I started crying and Erin went back to his class to bring my aunt and me some tissues. I could not believe it then, and I could not believe it now. I rather think that he has returned back to his very own world.
    Kerry loved the ocean and because of that, his friends and family decided to hold his memorial service at Baker Beach. This reminds me of a beautiful Persian poem:
    فرو شدن چو بديدی بر آمدن بنگر غروب شمس و قمر را چرا زيان باشد

    You have seen it going down; now watch as it is coming up.
    How could setting take away anything from the sun?

  2. The next assignment:

    Final Presentation:

    I wrote this story about a wonderful teacher of mine because I had recently missed so much the goodness in our world. Watching TV these days, reading newspaper, all we see is that people are killing each other, hurting and ignoring each other.
    Then when I was deciding about what to write for my second essay in this class, I remembered what a caring person Kerry, my late teacher was. So I chose to write about him and his generous character, and his spiritually rich world.
    To write this story I tried very hard to recall the details of my school days some seven years ago, when I was a student in his class English as a second language. Especially since he is gone now, it was not always easy for me to focus on some memorable events that I know will never repeat themselves.
    One of my favorite parts of this story was the paragraph I wrote about what was going on my mind, when my aunt and I were riding the Muni train, just before going to the school to see him after six years.
    While writing this story about Kerry, I realized that because of him I could still believe that people are innately good-willed, only if they would allow themselves to spend more time with other people to understand each other better.
    I wrote this story so other people would know about a very caring person who made a difference in the life of another person simply by being himself, which in this case was being a good teacher who loved to share his thoughts with others.

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