This post will perhaps seem to be a complete contradiction to the one I just wrote… We arrived at school on Tuesday morning for an emergency faculty meeting. The time-stamp on the email was 12:48 a.m. It had to be bad news. And it was. Gayle Gay, a much beloved educator at Crawford, had passed away the night before. For five minutes, I’m not sure where I was – unable to fully process the news, I watched others around me. Heads buried in hands, tears streaming down faces, confusion on the faces of the teachers walking in late.
Listening to the students as they received the news was even more difficult. Kids who seemed so tough, like nothing could break them, doubled over at their desks, their bodies racked with sobs. The others eerily silent – still processing, perhaps shocked by the reactions of their classmates. This was even more difficult than hearing the news for the first time. It was the second time some of them had confronted the death of someone close to them in four months. And for a little while, we were all just people hurting together.
I’ve been gone for three days, but I hope a little of this has stuck with them. How important it is for us to be kind to each other. How petty things don’t matter in the scheme of things. And how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away. I find myself struggling to remember my last conversation with Gayle. I’m sure it was in the hallway, and I know she had a big smile on her face, even if we were complaining about something (or, more likely, someone). Since I know I was wearing a dress the last time I saw her, I’m pretty confident she touched my shoulder, smiled, shook her head a little, and said, “Such a pretty dress. You always have on a pretty dress.”
But I wish I’d known more. I wish I’d stopped to talk more, to ask personal questions, to get to know Gayle outside the hallway. She was one of my favorite people at work; she always put a smile on my face. And I never stopped to talk for long. Always somewhere to go, something to copy, someone to find. So perhaps my lesson is just to slow down. Take an extra 30 seconds. Or five minutes. In the end, won’t it have been worth it?