When a Dear ELT Friend is Not Here Anymore

Some people have such a strong and memorable presence in our lives that it is almost like they are immortal, or maybe they really are. They imprint some of them in us. When they are gone, at least physically, it is almost as if our hearts immerse in silence, and our minds process in such a speed all the nostalgic memories we have with these friends or family members. That drip of tear is inevitable.

I feel lucky to have had some of those people, much older than me and certainly much wiser, for whom I’d stop to listen them talk in admiration, with that pathetic look we have when we are closer to an idol. My grandparents, my beloved tio Luigi, Doutor Cícero were some of them. But today my heart weeps with the disillusionment for not having been able to meet face-to-face one of my greatest friends I had the pleasure to interact, listen to, collaborate with and learn from for the past decade. So many times have I planned in my mind a trip to Arizona with my whole family to meet him..I even mentioned that to someone that I really wanted to go to Arizona some time soon. That’s why a plan with no actionable measures might be so devastating to one’s soul. Postponing what could have been the encounter of a lifetime meant I missed the chance to be with one of the most generous and optimistic persons I know.

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 6.22.56 PMI met Dennis Oliver because of a cup of coffee. I remember we were part of the same online class, taking a TESOL online Certificate Program, and Dennis made a comment about my cup of coffee and the smile on my face. From there, we were hooked for life. We interacted daily and it was just natural after the course was over to find the perfect excuses to keep In touch. Our first online project was a collaborative international exchange with my groups in Brasilia and his in the College he taught. The project went on for a year and a half, and it even took a bigger dimension when Dennis invited a friend of his, Pearl, and her group of students to interact with us. The last words in our collaborative blog was Dennis’s. It brings tears to my eyes. My throat dries. http://internationalexchange.blogspot.com.br

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My dear online friend was very present in my family. Everyone in the house knew him. He would interact with my kids in videos, sending cute funny messages to my little ones. My kids would also record their videos to him. We would exchange the kindness of shipping mementos to each other. Once we even had a big surprise in class when Dennis sent a big package with all sorts of things to my groups, from postcards written by his students to Arizona booklets for us to explore. He was tireless in making me smile and long for our interactions.


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We kept creating alibis for our constant interaction, so he was really part of the first online course I designed for the school I work for, Casa Thomas Jefferson. Dennis’s presence was a crucial element for the success of the listening Plus course. In our synchronous meetings, Dennis was always expected in anticipation as our special guest. My students just loved to interact with him. In the forums, he replied to them all, recorded videos and audio. The online classes were more lively and humanly exciting because of Dennis.


Talking about generosity, our Webhead community will never forget the roses he sent to our TESOL get-togethers in Seattle and Boston. I will never forget my first super digital e-reader. Dennis sent to the hotel I was staying in Boston, a Kindle device. I kept saying to myself that I didn’t deserve such care from a friend whom I’ve never had the chance to hug…Though I use newer technologies, my red-covered Kindle is part of a story of kindness and largess of the soul, of trust  and long-lasting friendship.

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Dennis Oliver is part of me and my story. He changed my view of the world and the length to which I could go with my students. He lifted my spirit with his kind words. You might be thinking that he was soft, gentle and the sorts, but, in fact, he could be hardheaded, stubborn really. Dennis was one of kind with his antithetical and captivating personality.

I’ve been re-reading all our email interactions and his passion for life and learning has always delighted me. Infectious. In all these years, Dennis never forgot my birthday, always sent me cards. He never let our friendship fade into forgetfulness. I will never dismiss from my mind what Dennis has taught me and the deepness of our connections. My heart is tight. My soul weeps, but with a smile in my face with the sweet thoughts of Dennis, my friend for eternity.



One response to “When a Dear ELT Friend is Not Here Anymore”

  1. Carla Arena Avatar
    Carla Arena

    True, Vance. I’ll never forget how much I learned with Dennis, how much he cared for our friendship even from a “distance”. He will always be with us.

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