Friday, September 14, 2007

Autumn Days of a Life

I have a friend, just a couple years older than myself. Her name is Ginny. We became friends 16 years ago when number 1 son had her as his first grade teacher. I knew then she was something special and begged number 2's kindergarten teacher to place him in Ginny's first grade as well. I wish it wasn't so but she is in the autumn of her life. I spoke with her several weeks ago and she hopes that she can hang on until her first child's wedding next June. She has a husband and three children, the youngest being 16. She is no stranger to the insidious disease of cancer as this is her fourth bout with it in 25 years. Unfortunately for this world, "it" is going to win this fight.

When you speak with her she has the uncanny ability to make you feel better and to comfort you. She wants to keep everything as normal as possible as long as she can. While her body is weak and frail, her spirit is energetic and upbeat. Ginny is the strongest woman I know. She is a kind, gentle, nurturing person, and deserves to spend a long life spoiling her future grandchildren. She would be a wonderful grandmother.

It became clear this summer that Ginny can no longer work and would not be coming back to school in September. Our school is not the same without her energy there. There is a long term sub in for her and we're welcoming her into the family but it's just not the same, plus she has huge shoes to fill.

I've had a card for her that I've been looking at for 3 weeks and struggling with what to write. It's been at home, sort of out of sight, out of mind but not really. I took it to work and put it on my desk so I see it everyday. I just didn't know what to write in it. I didn't just want to sign my name, I wanted to acknowledge that I know how hard it must be to not return to the teaching job she loves. What do you say to someone in this situation? Finally yesterday I forced myself to confront it. It was a hard, tearful and painful but once I started, the words tumbled out.

For many, writing words are easier than speaking them. I'm one of those people. I did let her know I understand how hard it must be for her to not be working, how we all miss her and on a personal level how much I miss our friendship. I told her the above story about knowing how special she was all those years ago when my boys had her, how she is an inspiration to all. My original goal 30 years ago was to be a teacher but I went into the corporate world for 18. I left that job and started coming into her classroom once a week to help out. She put the bug in my ear that eventually got me where I am today. In a job that I love, I get to work with all types of kids, to see their joy for life and to hopefully guide them into intelligent, wonderful adults. I told her thank you for that.

All things I might never have told her had she not been sick. I guess the moral of the story is to not wait for that to happen. Don't wait to tell people you love those things. Make their day.

No regrets.


Kitten Herder said...

Cancer cuts short the lives of so many vibrant people. It sounds like Ginny has left her mark on many, and I am certain that her role on this world in doing so will not be complete until sometime after she has moved on.

Thank you for reminding me how important it is to let others know what they mean to you. You never know when the opportunity to do so will be gone forever.