Several years ago, I taught a summer course in introductory writing to a handful of prospective freshmen at my fashion college. Among these students was a lovely young woman named Ashley Riggitano. She was respectful and pleasant, and eager to learn. Ashley worked very hard, but she lacked confidence. Many young people do. Hundreds of students pass through my classroom each semester, but I remember her. She was really worried about the big test at the end of the course. This would be a timed essay, and it would determine whether or not she would gain admittance to the college. Test-taking is its own skill, and Ashley struggled with a high degree of anxiety over exams. I knew that if she was admitted to the college, she had the work ethic and the skill set necessary to be successful. I promised her that if the test did not go well, I would fight for her.
Ashley, If your spirit is out there somewhere, I want you to know that I kept my word. I believed in you. When I checked in with your writing professor that fall, she spoke highly of your progress. I was proud of you. I knew you could do it if you were given the chance. We lost touch after that, as I mainly work with freshmen and sophomores. I wish we had been closer. I wish I could have seen behind your smile and known something of the pain you carried. I wish I could have helped you.
I hope that when others think of you, they will remember the Ashley that I knew: the bright, determined, creative, caring young woman who shone with promise. My heart goes out to your family and loved ones who must somehow replace your presence with a cherished memory. And most of all I hope that, somewhere out there, your spirit can look down on the people in your life as they gather to mourn your loss, and that you will feel and know of their love for you.
May you rest in peace.