Dear Dillon’s Family,
I was Dillon’s 9th grade science teacher, and I felt very close to him. I was away, visiting my family, and I missed participating in the organized grieving for and honoring of Dillon. I found out about his death from the email sent out by Julia O’Grady. From the subject, I thought I must be mistaken; Dillon couldn’t have died. I started crying in the Milwaukee airport, and I’ve been having a hard time processing the fact that Dillon is no longer with us.
I wanted to write to you and share your sorrow. It has been very difficult for me, and I cannot conceive of the pain and immobilizing grief that you must be feeling. You and I both know that Dillon was an extraordinary human being, and the world is less bright without him. Dillon was a person with many gifts, but the most important to me was his ability to give. I’ve never met another person, much less a child, with such an easy way of giving himself, without ever needing or taking.
His 9th grade year, I nominated him for Student of the Month, because of his way of helping classmates without any tone of superiority or judgment. He would finish a project and then wander around the room to help others, and students would readily ask for his help. He attributed his feeling of responsibility for his peers to his education at Wildwood, saying it was the 7 Habits of Heart and Mind that led him to be the person he became. Still, the 7 habits cannot wholly explain Dillon: he was so much more than seven statements that don’t really encompass all that he had to offer. At first, I thought that Wildwood must be a miracle school, churning out well-adjusted, mature, caring individuals. Since then, I’ve known other students who have come from Wildwood, and, for those children, the principles of heart and mind had not become habits. Dillon embraced and internalized those habits, because they fit so well with his nature. He did not need to be taught those habits, but Wildwood gave word and validity to what Dillon knew was right. I asked Dillon to write down the habits for me, and to this day, the scrap of paper on which he wrote the 7 Habits of Heart and Mind is posted on my bulletin board behind my desk. I want to be reminded of the qualities that it takes to be a good person, and Dillon Henry was the embodiment of those qualities.
I’m trying to figure out the lesson that I’m supposed to learn from Dillon’s death. I’m trying to understand why he was taken from us. The only think that I can come up with is that now we’re all supposed to try very hard to be more like him.
Please know that Dillon touched many people’s lives, and that you are not alone in mourning his loss – our loss.
With heartfelt sympathy,