In Remembrance of David Fischer May 8, 2017
I found out last night that a former student, David Fischer, passed away three days ago. He is the fifth or sixth student from that graduating year that has passed away, just 8 years after they received their diploma. He was 27 years old. I cannot stand the thought of the loss of another student. Each time I hear of another death, it is surreal. It seems like it can’t really be happening, except there would be no reason for anyone to call and say that someone had died if they hadn’t, so I always know it is real.
As I think back on David, I realize that there is something sacred about remembering the deceased. There is something to thinking back to the last time you saw the person, what you knew to be true of that person, what you knew the person would do, or would never do, which people loved him and which people hated him It all comes back in a heartbeat, all at one time, the memories flooding in like a wave.
I was one of the people who loved David dearly. I can remember him vividly. I would venture to guess that anyone who ever met David remembers him vividly. One of my all time favorite kids describes him as “unapologetically himself”, which was so true. He was tall and slender, frequently wearing a bright pink sweatshirt from Victoria’s Secret. When he was in high school he stripped the color from his hair and then re-dyed it pink, which then washed out so it was white-pink. He used a lot of product, so his hair stood out as though it had a life of its own, refusing to listen to anyone, not unlike David himself, by the way.
David was also fairly talented with a curling iron and wore sparkly blue eye shadow, which he applied in a particular way, creating what we called his “signature eye.” One time he created his signature eye on a female classmate and it was so not her style that it looked really weird on her. She told him she hated it. He told her it didn’t look good because she was ugly. As you can imagine, the girl did not react well to this and drama ensued. David was not unkind, but he was unfiltered. Those of us who loved him best suffer from that same affliction – unfiltered comments. Sometimes inappropriate, poorly timed, unfiltered comments. It takes one to know one.
Despite and maybe even because of this lack of filter, David had a way of getting into people’s hearts and they couldn’t help but love him. One time a teacher sent David to the Assistant Principal’s office because he had plugged in his curling iron and,
while waiting for it to heat up, he started re-applying his make up during an afternoon Study Skills class. The teacher thought he was off task and disruptive, while David argued that he had no work to do, his assignments were all completed and handed in to the teachers. Sending David to the office for being disruptive seemed like the biggest joke ever. He was six feet tall with white-pink hair, plus the pink sweatshirt, and the signature eye shadow, so his mere walking into the classroom was disruptive!! The assistant principal changed his class so that he sat with another teacher who adored him and who, to this day says that he was one of her favorite kids of all time. When he graduated he gave her a portrait of himself as a drag queen as a parting gift, a gift she has to this day.
I don’t know what to say to David’s mother, but I am searching for words that bring her some comfort. She is an amazing mother. When we found out that David passed away, almost everyone commented on how lucky he was to have had a mother who not only loved him, but who also “really got him.” It took us a really long time to figure out that she was a big shot attorney. You couldn’t ever tell that from talking to her or from our interactions. With us, she was always just an involved mom who loved her son and who accepted him for who he was in the world. I feel like we all became better parents for having walked that journey with them, and for having had her as a role model who taught us radical acceptance.
We tell our students, “Once you are ours, you are ours forever”, and it may be the most important thing we ever tell them. It is so true. We mean it for each and every one of them. It’s personal for us that way. I haven’t seen David in a number of years now, which I regret. We’ve had so many students come and go in the almost twenty years that our team has worked at the school, that it is impossible to keep up with all of them. We hate that. We hate when we don’t see the alumni and when they don’t keep in touch, although we also understand that they have lives and that we were a part of their lives a long, long time ago now. Still, we worry about them like it was yesterday. I am not sure if that is the impact of working in a high school, if it is the impact of being middle aged, or being an Italian Catholic or a combination of all of it. I just know that I miss seeing them, and I fear that they might forget how much we love them.
So David, here’s to your white-pink hair, your signature eye shadow, your curling iron, your artistic style of weaving in and out of life. Here’s to our having walked along the same path as you, for the privilege it was to have known and loved you. I hope that you rest in peace and that you know that you are ours and will be ours forever.