A colleague and valued friend died without warning a week ago. I was stunned by the news and I am still working my way through dealing with her death. As much as I know we all need to leave the earth at some point, Agnes passed away so suddenly that it doesn’t seem possible for her to be gone. Her writing is still on one of the white boards in her room (the custodian confessed she can’t bear to erase it yet) and I keep finding things that remind me of her in the workroom we shared between our classrooms. It’s been a highly challenging week so far, for me and for my school as a whole.
According to the proper order of things, as I see them anyway, a person is meant to have a fulfilling career and eventually retire surrounded by her loved ones. While Agnes was near retirement, she should have had a couple of decades ahead of her to enjoy all the things she worked so hard for, and she should have had more time with her beloved husband. I remember once asking him at a staff function how long they had been married, and he smiled and responded, “Not nearly long enough.” They were one of the few couples I’ve met who still looked at each other gooey eyed after forty-some years together. It hurts me that people who loved as deeply as they did were separated so soon.
Agnes was the kind of woman no one ever said anything bad about. When a person teaches junior and senior high, being spoken of only in a positive sense, especially by the kids, is a rare situation. It reflects how much her gentleness and generosity radiated in our school community. She was the right kind of tough with the kids, and always drove them to succeed with a firm kindness that helped them believe in themselves and in their potential. I know she touched many lives through her teaching career, and she will be remembered with gratitude by many, many people.
We are holding a remembrance ceremony for Agnes at school tomorrow, which will be simultaneously difficult and reassuring. I think being surrounded by others who knew and loved her will be comforting, but I know saying goodbye will reinforce the fact that she won’t burst into my classroom bubbling with good news about her grandkids again, or be there to listen and offer solid advice when I’m having a rough day or face a new challenge. After more than six years of friendship with an amazing woman who was both a mentor and a bit of a mother figure, adjusting to life without her is a difficult task.
I miss my friend, and my heart aches for her family. It has been a sad week.
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