This came to me as I was reading a profile of Derek Parfit, recently deceased, in the New Yorker, specifically this quote.
My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations.
When we die our immediate relationships are broken yet our influence on other people and for that matter the material universe lives on through memories people have of us and the artifacts we created, such artifacts, for example, as the words in this blog, the furniture I have made, the stone house I built.
It occurred to me that as teachers we are creating memories of ourselves in others whether we like it or not. These memories will become part of our students’ persons, generally a very small part and be passed on marginally to their children. This is consoling in one way but should also imbue us, teachers, with a sense of responsibility. I recall this sentence by Gilbert Highet,
It is a serious thing to infer with another man’s life.