06 March 2010

When maneuvering through the snow is the least of it.

This is a recent letter of recommendation for a former student. Some things are easy to do.

I’m pleased to write this letter of recommendation for Katherine. I’ve known her since she was a junior in my English 11 class. When she was a senior, I was happy to find her in my creative writing elective, and since she graduated, she has kept in touch with me quite regularly. She is a wonderful young lady, and I highly recommend her.

When I think of Katherine, I picture her wonderful smile. She has the uncanny ability to remain perennially optimistic in the face of anything: a tough research project, maneuvering her wheelchair through snow, or dealing with blindness and indeterminate diagnoses. Despite many painful medical tests, procedures and sick days in the last several years, she faces each obstacle with her quiet strength and shy smile. She seems unconcerned about herself; rather, she worries more about the fears and concerns of those who care about her.

One of the most difficult memories I have is when she was a senior in high school; after yet another doctor’s appointment, she came to tell me about her decreasing vision. As an English teacher, I see too few students who love to read. Katherine is an exception, a voracious reader. As she was telling me that the doctors had determined that she would probably continue losing her vision, I felt overwhelmed that this young woman might no longer be able to enjoy her books. I also imagined the obstacles this would pose for her academic life in college. Nevertheless, Katherine, far more mature than she has any right to be, quickly turned the conversation to the hopeful—that an operation or technology might help, and that, ultimately, it would be okay. We were soon laughing about the possibilities of wheelchairs with GPS and autopilot capabilities and, finally, I had to agree with her that it would be okay.

And in the two years after her graduation from high school, it really has been “okay.” Despite adapting to blindness and changing diagnoses and the normal stresses of being a successful college student, Katherine has indeed proved to be exceptionally strong, optimistic, and determined. Adapting to college life is daunting enough for many young people, but she has done that all while adapting to blindness as well. She is not merely surviving, but thriving in college, and the proof is in her academic success and many activities, including spearheading fundraisers and completing internships. She has many gifts--strength, optimism, empathy and intelligence—and she uses these gifts to enrich every life she touches.


Anonymous said...

Very moving. After all is said and done, this is what you remember.

nfhuth said...

Very true, O wise Aron/Nora.

southernfemme said...

I've been blue all day. Your writing just changed that. thank you.

nfhuth said...

Thanks, southernfemme. This particular student, despite her youth, has been my role model for several years now.