At the time, I had no idea that she was going to die. Spending those days with my dad going in and out of Boston watching over her as she lay in the ICU bed, I kept hoping and praying for a miracle, because, well, she deserved it.

We spent hours a day going in, playing music for her, talking to her, rubbing her hands and blessing her head. In the end though, surrounded by family, my mother quietly passed away.

In the midst of this sudden turmoil and pain, we were flooded with sentiments given about my mom from all walks of her life. Friends from high school, colleagues, close, dear friends, acquaintances from past organizations and current groups, even people who were strangers to my father and me all sent their thoughts and cards of love and stories how my mom had touched their lives.

But the ones that impacted me the most were the few very special ones from her former students.  There were only a couple, but they were so powerful.

One spoke of how my mother had told her how much she cared for her and wanted her to make good choices in life.  The then high school student was going down a dark path and she said that it was because of my mother that she turned things around and found love and success in her adulthood.

Another woman wrote of how my mother was one of only 3 teachers who went to visit her after being hospitalized for an eating disorder.  This woman said that my mother was “the highlight” of her school day as she was always “so happy and really cared about her students.”

Not only does this make my heart warm to hear these stories of my mother, but it makes me realize just how much we teachers truly can impact our students.  Maybe we are able to know it in the moment, often it takes years to see our impact.

Still, sometimes it takes a loss for your starfish to reveal themselves.

I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking when I took this picture in the hospital room. It just struck me and I wanted to capture the unique image of the starfish. Maybe I was just hoping that the nurses and doctors would somehow be able to save my mom just like how the boy throws the starfish back into the ocean.

Right now, as I continue to understand this devastating loss, it helps to remember the lives my mother touched throughout her life.  And the starfish she truly did save.