Death and Life

During my K-12 years at school, I had a few awful teachers and a few excellent teachers. Most were somewhere in between. One of the excellent ones, Mrs. Williford, died last Wednesday. I had Mrs. Williford for Texas History in 7th Grade and American History in 8th grade. She had a little black dog named Miss Foo, who was always up to something. Mrs. Williford was funny and dramatic and had a way of making history come alive – some great adventure that actually happened, instead of it being a desiccated list of the names of long-dead people that had to be memorized for a test. In 8th grade, we held a debate. We did some research and chose whether we were Torries or Whigs. Then we had to defend our position. There were three of us Torries (looking back, I suspect one guy just did for the sake of being contrarian). It was an exercise in critical thinking. Most people didn’t get it. They chose Whigs. Why? “Uh…I’m American?” But I appreciated it. I thought it was exciting and I probably learned more about American history than at any time before or since.

We expect junkies and alcoholics to die young and probably miserably. We aren’t surprised when violent criminals end up face down in a pool of their own blood. So why is it that someone who is smart, kind, talented and a just all-around great person gets cancer and has to live the last few months of her life constantly having to adjust her pain meds just to get through each day? There are lots of schools of thought on this. I think it is because everyone on this world is here for a purpose. A mission. The wisest and strongest souls are the ones to take on the hardest assignments. Maybe they need that final bit of tempering to move up to the next level. Perhaps they need to gain a certain perspective. Personalities fade. Bodies fail. But that eternal spark of the Divine that is in each of us always loves, always knows, always remembers.

So rest in peace, Mrs. Williford. I’m sure you got an A+ on your end of life review. You & Miss Foo have that cosmic teacher’s textbook now.