Hearts and Minds

August 20, 2011 at 10:05 AM Leave a comment

School must be a safe harbor for the hearts and minds of our children. Sometimes that trust must go the distance for the sake of their very survival. Concussion laws are being considered across the nation, a must for athletes in contact sports. Equally important is the prevention and treatment of sudden cardiac arrest.

Twelve years ago today, Jon and Diane Claerbout faced the unthinkable. Their brilliant and talented 25-year-old son Jos had arrived at work, started checking his email, and suddenly died. Since that time, they have met and supported hundreds of parents who have faced similar tragedies as their children, many of them high school or college athletes, have died suddenly. Diane has worked tirelessly with Parent Heart Watch, an advocacy organization that seeks to raise awareness and enact legislation mandating screening for and prevention of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in youths. For emergency treatment, AEDs, or Automated External Defibrillators are becoming commonplace in many educational and sports complexes. However, access to them and knowledge of their use continue to stymie efforts to save collapsed children in time.

Tributes for Jos and the many other young victims of sudden death attempt to ease the pain of loss, but they cannot recapture these wonderful spirits or the promise their lives had held. We need them here and now. I salute my sister and brother-in-law in their work even as I regret their pain and the absence of Jos.

Jos sought to live life well, seeing each day as an adventure. He wrote eloquently and dabbled in TV and film ideas. Describing himself as a migrant worker on his resume, Jos took detours with relish, interrupting his education, once to be a salmon fisherman in Alaska and again to take an internship in Washington to study the religious right, a group he had come to know as a force to be reckoned with while working in Alaska. During his brief career in Silicon Valley, Jos wrote “Don’t Fear the OOP,” a Java tutorial modeled on a formula for writing a trashy Western novel that still earns rave reviews today. He was eclectic and original, at once ethereal and obsessed with details. He could perseverate on a passing fancy for days then take time out to win a Muumuu contest.

Jos was a hero to his young cousins. When we went to Washington the summer before Jos died, my step-daughter, turning her back to the White House impatiently, just kept asking, “When will we see Jos?” I wish we had a better answer today.


Entry filed under: Journal Entries, Student Outcomes.

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