Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Living Funeral?

Last night, I attended a retirement party for a fellow teacher. She is an amazing woman who has taught at Leon High School for 35+ years. Her presence will certainly be missed by the faculty, and I'm sorry for future students who won't get to experience her love and dedication. 

She is the definition of a teacher committed to her students and to doing her absolute best in the classroom. Her car is the last one in the parking lot every day. I should say day/night because many times I have gone back to school for sporting events in the evening and her car is still there. 

She attends workshops to make sure she's up on the latest, greatest theories in education. You know, the ones that are going to revolutionize teaching and student learning? When I attend these workshops, my cynical self thinks, "Yeah, right." My friend, however, always gives the new plans a chance and finds good in them. 

She is involved in school improvement and actually writes the massive annual plan that shows how the school will go about improving itself. I have seen her exasperated with her students, but I have never heard her raise her voice. I think her biggest virtue is that she truly loves teaching and young adults. 

At the party, many of her current and former colleagues shared memories of her. The speakers told how she handled specific situations at work while being a single mother to a child who had serious health issues, how she influenced the student interns with whom she shared her classroom, and how she put her whole self into her love of her career.

As I write this, it occurrs to me that this post sounds like a eulogy, something that I would say at her funeral. And with my retirement a year away, I wonder what people will say about me next year at my party.

In the book by Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie, the title character Morrie is dying of ALS. Before his body/mind degenerates too much due to this disease, he decides to have a "living funeral."

Morrie's friends and family come from near and far to tell him of the impact he had on their lives. It's really quite a touching scene in the book.

I think a living funeral is a great idea. Why wait until you are dead to have people say all that they wish they could have said to your face? I want to hear my students' memories of events during our time together, to hear what my family has to say about me (good and bad), and to hear all of my favorite hymns/songs. (By the way, my funeral playlist is written on the back page of my Bible.) It's probably just my ego wanting to hear all of this because I imagine all the words are of only the good I did, not any of the bad. 

Below is a quote from Tuesdays with Morrie. This quote is one of the many aphorisms Morrie had about life, death, love, etc. 

This quote reminds me of my now-retired friend. She did not move half-asleep through life but took hold of what she loves -- teaching, young people, music, family, community -- and devoted her life to it. She definitely created a life with purpose and meaning. 

I have not done half as much good or devoted nearly enough time as my friend, but I can keep trying.

We can all keep trying.

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