I have heard, on two occasions this week-end, this marks the end of an era: at my colleagues retirement party and at my friend’s funeral. These words are bitter-sweet to me in that one needs to have something special – but that that special thing has to also end.
Last night, I hosted a retirement party for my dear friend and colleague, Sandra. We taught together in Continuing Education for many years, which also means that we navigated some pretty tricky waters together too. We learned how to be better teachers together. We learned how to be better cheer-leaders together. We learned that teaching students was more important than teaching curriculum. We also learned that we don’t have to agree in order to cooperate. That differences of opinion can be enriching. That history belongs to those who take risks in innovation – and that also meant it was totally critical to not judge. There is but a mere core of the original Barrie Learning Centre “power-team” left now. Our “era” is closing. Education has shifted to on-line learning and our days of live classroom learning are closing. We changed lives. We did. And those lives will, in turn, create their own era.
Today, I attended a funeral for my dear friend Thelma. She was a fantastic role model and confident to me. She lead my children in church choir musicals and inspired me to be a contributing member of the church. Thelma taught me how to listen and inspired me to become a loving listening. She laughed a lot – found irony in life’s situations – and did her very best to tackle them with grace and dignity. How can I not try to learn from that? Thelma taught me to consider all my options before making decisions, to think of the “children” first (always), and to NEVER forget your roots – acknowledge the shoulders of the giants upon which you stand. We had a pact, Thelma and I: we would never give up – we would always have hope. I sang at her funeral while her dear friends Eleanor and Jim played the scores from the children’s musicals Thelma has given to our church members. We all sang. She would have wanted that. She loved music. She especially loved her family. Above all else – she loved her family. Her death marks the end of an era. Her inspiration, however, lives on in those whose lives she changed, influenced, and supported. And those lives will, in turn, create their own era.
A retirement and a funeral: both mark ends of eras. Both provide occasions where new opportunities arose. No one wants to say good-bye. No one wants to let go. And so – each event spawned new opportunities.
As sad and as exhausted as I am emotionally – I remain affirmed that I am a better person as a result of belonging to those eras. I would not have it any other way – I am privileged. I am honoured to be able to stand on the shoulders of the giants whom I have known and love/ loved. And I will never forget that it is because of them – that I am who I am today.
The depth to which we mourn is directly reflected in the depth to which we have loved. I will mourn the “ends of these eras” forever. I am, however, committed to do the very best job I can do to live a life that will provide the opportunity for someone else to note – when I leave, that my departure marks “the end of an era”, for having marking that end – means I have made a difference.
And that I too – am a giant.