my student's brother died (long)

I have the best job ever. I’m a pretty advanced graduate student, and my job is to tutor 4 first-year graduate students in their core classes. It’s like being paid to have really cool friends and help them. These are international scientists involved in HIV in the developing world who have come to my University to get their Master’s in Public Health. Then they go back to their countries and do amazing work. The people who were in this program and were my fellow students when I got my MPH are now leading the prevention efforts for HIV in their countries. I am so honored to be a part of this effort.

Today I found out that over the weekend, the eldest brother of one of my students died. This was in Africa. He had a bad infection, needed a limb amputated. He died an hour before the surgery. My student has lost many brothers. My student’s mother is in the ICU and will probably die soon. My student is the rock that the rest of the family leans on, but my student is here and not there. For many reasons, a mix of cultural (needing to have the burial soon) and practical (needing to take care of the mother in ICU - which cannot be done prior to the burial for cultural reasons), my student will miss the funeral. It will be in a few hours.

Graduate school is hard. This is one of the best programs in public health in the world, and it is a very hard course. These wonderful people come from very far places, leave their families, most do not speak english well, and undertake not only to do a very challenging set of classes but also to develop innovative research in HIV prevention that can be conducted in their home countries. This is partly why they have me - to make sure that they don’t fall behind or miss anything important in their classes.

But it is so much more than that. My job is to make sure that they succeed. The faculty are wonderful and supportive, the other students are rallying around my bereaved one. We are strategizing ways to be supportive without being overly intrusive.

But this sucks so much!!! My sister died during my first year of classes. Very different circumstances, but big emotional flashback. It’s not fair that such a bad thing should happen to a person who is working so hard, and working on one of the worst things that is happening in the world today! I want them all to be happy, and it is just breaking my heart that I can’t make it be that way.