A teacher shared a heartbreaking narrative on social media about a former student, which has since become viral, captivating and deeply saddening people around the world.
This is what the teacher shared:
Mark Eklund was a student in my very first third-grade class at Saint Mary’s School in Morris, Minnesota. Among the 34 students I taught, Mark stood out as someone truly special. He had a remarkable sense of tidiness and always appeared well-groomed. What made him truly exceptional was his infectious zest for life, which made even his occasional mischievousness a joy to witness.
Mark was an incessant talker, requiring repeated reminders from me about the importance of seeking permission before speaking. What truly amazed me, however, was his genuine response every time I had to correct his behavior. He would sincerely say, “Thank you for correcting me, Sister!” Initially, I wasn’t sure how to interpret it, but as time went on, I grew accustomed to hearing those words from him multiple times a day.
On a particular morning, my patience was wearing thin due to Mark’s excessive talking, and in a moment of inexperience as a teacher, I made a mistake. I glanced at Mark and uttered, “If you utter another word, I will tape your mouth shut!” To my surprise, within a mere ten seconds, Chuck exclaimed, “Mark is talking again.”
I hadn’t asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it. I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark’s desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big✖️with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me.
That was the turning point! I couldn’t help but burst into laughter. The entire class erupted in cheers as I walked back to Mark’s desk, removed the tape, and shrugged my shoulders. Mark’s first words were, “Thank you for correcting me, Sister.”
As time passed, I was assigned to teach junior-high math at the end of the year. The years seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, Mark was once again in my classroom. He had grown even more handsome and remained just as polite. With the introduction of the “new math,” which required careful listening to my instructions, Mark didn’t talk as much in ninth grade as he did in third.
On a particular Friday, there was an unsettling atmosphere in the classroom. Throughout the week, we had dedicated ourselves to grasping a new concept, but I could sense that the students were becoming increasingly disheartened, frustrated with their own progress, and irritable towards one another. It was crucial for me to address this negativity before it escalated. To tackle the situation, I instructed the students to write down the names of their classmates on two separate sheets of paper, leaving some space between each name.
Next, I instructed the students to contemplate the kindest thing they could say about each of their classmates and jot it down. It consumed the remaining time of the class, and as the students departed, they handed me their completed papers. Charlie wore a smile, and Mark expressed his gratitude, saying, “Thank you for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend.”
On the following Saturday, I dedicated time to transcribe the name of each student onto individual sheets of paper. Alongside each name, I meticulously noted what their peers had shared about them.
On the following Monday, I distributed the personalized lists to each student. It didn’t take long before the entire class was adorned with smiles. I overheard whispers of surprise and disbelief, such as, “Really? I never knew that meant something to anyone!” and “I had no idea others liked me this much.” Interestingly, no one ever brought up those papers in class again. I remained unaware of whether they discussed them privately or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had successfully achieved its intended outcome. The students had regained their happiness and restored their positive relationships with one another.
The group of students I taught eventually moved on to the next stage of their lives. Several years later, upon my return from a vacation, my parents greeted me at the airport. During the car ride back home, my mother engaged in the customary conversation, asking about the trip, the weather, and my overall experiences.
A moment of silence fell upon us, and my mother cast a sidelong glance at my father before uttering a single word, “Dad?” In his customary manner, my father cleared his throat, a prelude to something significant. “The Eklunds called last night,” he began. Surprised, I exclaimed, “Really? I haven’t heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is doing.” My father’s voice grew somber as he replied, “Mark was killed in Vietnam. The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow, and his parents would appreciate it if you could attend.” Even now, I can vividly recall the exact location on I-494 where my father shared this heartbreaking news about Mark.
Until that moment, I had never witnessed a serviceman laid to rest in a military coffin. Mark appeared remarkably handsome and grown-up. In that poignant instant, my mind could only echo the sentiment, “Mark, I would willingly trade all the masking tape in the world if only you could speak to me.”
The church overflowed with Mark’s friends, and during the funeral, Chuck’s sister delivered a heartfelt rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Why did it have to rain on such a solemn day? The weather only added to the difficulty we experienced at the graveside. The pastor recited the customary prayers, and the bugler played the mournful tune of taps. One by one, those who cherished Mark took their final steps past the coffin, sprinkling it with holy water. As the last person to approach, I stood there, gazing at the coffin, when one of the soldiers serving as a pallbearer approached me. “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he inquired. I nodded, my eyes still fixed on the coffin. “Mark used to talk about you a lot” he said.
Following the funeral, the majority of Mark’s former classmates gathered at Chuck’s farmhouse for lunch. Mark’s parents were present, clearly anticipating my arrival. “We have something to show you,” Mark’s father said, retrieving a wallet from his pocket. “They discovered this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.” With great care, he opened the billfold and extracted two weathered pieces of notebook paper that had clearly been taped, folded, and unfolded numerous times.
Even without glancing at them, I instantly recognized the papers as the ones on which I had documented all the positive remarks Mark’s classmates had shared about him. Mark’s mother expressed her gratitude, saying, “Thank you immensely for doing that. As you can see, Mark cherished it.” Gradually, Mark’s classmates began to gather around us. Tears streamed down my face, not just for Mark, but also for all his friends who would never have the opportunity to see him again.
In our bustling society, the hustle and bustle of daily life often overshadow the realization that our time on Earth is limited, and we never know when that time will run out. Therefore, I urge you to express your love and appreciation to the people who hold meaning in your life. Let them know that they are valued and special, before it becomes too late.
I encourage you to share this poignant and impactful story with your loved ones. It serves as a powerful reminder that a kind word, a shared laughter, or a simple act of praise can leave a lasting impact that transcends time.