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My Last Day At School


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Friends,

I closed up my classroom today for the last time. Afterwards, I went out for Chinese food, just as Jane and I always did on the day we finally finished packing up. My fortune cookie had no fortune in it. I choose to believe that means the future is suddenly completely open and beyond any divination method to predict.

Of course it could also mean I have no future.

That is the danger with all forms of true prophecy: the meaning is always double-edged.

In another strand there is a debate over whether this is all there is or not. That, too, is a double-edged proposition. If we believe in an afterlife where we will be judged--and live our lives in fear of that judgement--then our lives are driven by that fear. And if it should happen that there is no afterlife--and we have lived by fear, all that we could have done may be stunted.

Yet if we live our lives as though there were no afterlife--taking what we want when we want it--living as though there is no last judgement--then our world becomes a place driven by greed and personal desire.

I have no desire to live in either world. And so I work to create structures based on acting out of love that is neither amore nor caritas. i do not deny the idea of romantic love--the evidence of it in my life is far too strong. Nor do i reject the idea of the love of god--or deny its existence in any way. Again the evidence for its existence is equally strong in the history of my life. But neither is a way I can govern my entire existence. The spiritual and sensual worlds are fascinating and necessary places. But life is more than a series of spiritual or sensual incidents and adventures.

I see Jesus Christ not as God but as a man so fully perfected in himself that we can perceive no difference between him and what we call God--which is logical because we are all a part of God and God is a part of all of us. With divinity within us, our ability to approach divinity in our persons is there for all of us.

But whether you accept that idea or not does not ultimately matter. What matters is a single line from the Gospels. Christ says there is but one commandment: love one another, for all the other commandments are summed up in this one idea.

I have tried to build my life around that statement--not out of fear nor out of hope--but out of the belief that whether God as defined by any religion exists or not--whether there is an afterlife or not--that actions formed out of the love of the universal other create a better environment for all of us to live in. It formed the core of my teaching--and was at the core of Jane's teaching as well. Neither of us much cared about the rituals of any faith. We were content--and are content--in the knowledge that no truly just God could condemn our lack of ritual in the face of what we tried to do with and through our lives.

And if there is no God--if there is only evolutionary survival of the fittest--and as someone wrote here elsewhere, those reports of an afterlife are merely our minds playing tricks on us to accept our deaths--and those signs we think we see from our loved ones equally self-delusional ways to help us deal better with our loss--then despite our lack of children of the body our actions will have created a better world for other members of the species to survive in. We will have increased their chances of survival by helping to create a world in which war and violence are less likely than they might otherwise be; a world in which a young woman can have the same aspirations as a young man; a world in which, to steal from Martin Luther King, a person is judged not on the color of his skin, but by the content of their character.

Our lives were governed not by faith in God or fear of God or love of God but by love of humankind. We loved logic and reason. But we also loved compassion and the hopeless cause that no amount of logic or reason could justify. How many times should we have walked away from the school we taught at? How many times did budget cuts leave us with little or nothing to work with? How many schools would have welcomed us at far greater salaries?

But, like George Washington Carver, we put down our buckets where we were. We put them down there because that was where the need was greatest for who and what we were. We put them down there because those children needed us in that place and in that time if they were going to have a shot at being more than what people wanted to deny them. We put down our buckets where we were because love bade us do so--and there is no arguing with that kind of love.

But now, today, I am done with teaching high school students. Today, we were both supposed to be done with teaching high school students. The pain of that burns deep scars into my heart tonight--scars from which a part of me wonders if I can ever recover. In two days, it will be seven months since my partner in this great love left her mortal form. Words cannot express the depth of that loss--which those of you here know far to well. Even were I not to retire, it would be a long while before I could be the teacher that I was in that setting.

And it is time for me to move on. Our relief has arrived in the person of a number of younger teachers with unique gifts that are--or will be--every bit as great as ours--whose love of our children will nurture them and help them to grow beyond the limitations others may try to set on them--who understand that nothing is impossible--that no standard is too high--until you have pushed beyond what you believe are the limits and into the impossible, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clark--that with love, all things are possible.

And I know my heart will heal--and that even while it is healing there is work that I can still do--both here and elsewhere. Love will guide me there--as it alway has. There are lives to save, souls to heal, and candles beyond measure to light in the world before I rest. The vineyard is always there. And the person in charge is always hiring.

Peace,

Harry

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Harry,

First, I know it was with mixed feelings that you closed that door for the last time; that you would have wanted to share that Chinese meal with the love of your life; that you, I know, influenced many lives-changed many lives and will continue to do so.

After teaching for 14 years in schools lacking many "things" but not lacking love and working with people for another 36 years, I am aware of the ability we have to steer youth and others towards fuller lives. I just know you both did that. My husband and I had a clinic together for many years...worked together, played together, loved together. Helped others on their paths. You both did that...and I KNOW you did it well also. I am uncertain if I will continue alone.

I wish you days of healing, days of lovely memories in the midst of pain that is beyond our comprehension. You write so well and express thoughts that others need to hear...perhaps there is a book sitting inside of you waiting to get out.

Peace,

Mary

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Harry,

I know it's a change, and it's going to be a huge adjustment, but I also know that you will do all right ultimately, you have strength and positive attitude and it will serve yu well. I toast you to a future with some wonderful surprises in store...surprises you will discover as you continue your journey.

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Harry,

I commend you on all the GOOD, that you and Jane accomplished. It takes a special person, like the 2 of you to open the minds of the young and some time trouble children. Like you Pauline was my life heart and soul. NOTHING I would not have done for her. The chance meeting. The Odds were to high not to have someone leading us to our meeting place. And Me of all people connected with her the way no one had before. I was Fresh from the mountains of Colorado. I never cut my hair all, winter long or my beard. I had these big coke bottle glasses, in spited of all that her and I felt like we had known each other all our lives just waiting for that moment in time and space for that meeting. In that small town in KS. all the men wanted her and were jealous she had picked me.

Like you I always try to see the good in people and help when I can. I have read a lot of books on space and time and how we pre sieve time. If you remember when you was a child and getting through school to graduate 12 nth grade. It seemed like it took for ever, but it was only 12 years. Then in your twenty's things start going by a little faster. Thirties even faster and so on and on. Now we look back and say where did all that time go. If you remember when you get sick and fever it seems like days drag on forever. I read a book about that and when we are young our body temperature is a little higher. When we get sick we get a fever, time in space seems to slow down. As we age our temperature drops down a little. So we conceive that time goes by so quickly. It all has to do with the way the brain conceives time in space. Time really goes by at the same speed. I do not know if it is a fact or just a theory. Whatever happens to our body as we age, it seems to make sense.

Just a little to think about as we all struggle in our own grief and beliefs.

Whatever we call it there is another dimension we go to. I for one fell withe every fiber of my being I will be reunited with Pauline some day after this body shuts down.

Harry I love reading what you write you are a deep thinker and so am I

God Bless, keep the faith and stay true to who you are

Dwayne

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Harry,

I hope I did not throw people off topic here. I just thought you could see something a little different and give you something to think about. If I threw people off topic, I deeply apologize for doing that. That was not my intent. When I wrote about space and time. You being a Star Trek fan, I though you might enjoy it. I guess no one else did because mine was the last post. What you write is very good I always enjoy reading your thoughts. I love the Humming birds nest. It reminded me so much of home where I grew up. Humming Bird all day every day in the summer

Please accept my apology,

God Bless

Dwayne

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Dear Dwayne,

No need to apologize. People are clearly reading the thread--they just don't have much to say about it. More likely I just write too much sometimes. And the piece was more me trying to sort ideas inside my head than anything else--so I am not concerned with the small number of comments. A thread takes the direction people need it to take. Don't worry about it.

Peace,

Harry

P.S. Is our group meeting this Wednesday or next?

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Harry,

Tonight is in Raynham, ours us next Wednesday. I try to go to all you meet different people and it helps. See you soon and thank you. No you did not write to much, you from your heart and it showed and I could feel the LOVE you had for Jane.

My god be with you

Dwayne

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Harry:

No doubt you will have a change in your life after so many years of teaching. You are on a new road and a meaningful one with your involvment in the Relay for Life and Walking with Jane. Your post regarding teaching was inspiring and my son is a second year high school teacher. I am going to send him your post. I am so impressed that after all the years you have taught that you have not become jaded and still believe that you can make a difference with young students. Thank you for that and I hope my son can stay that way. Thanks again for your positive outlook.

Blessings

Becky

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Dear Becky,

Have him get in touch with me if he wants to talk sometime. The one piece of advice my grandmother gave me when I went into the business was: The day you start teaching for money is the day you have to get out. That day never happened for me--in part because no matter what administrators do, it always comes down to teaching the kids and doing what is best for them in the long term.

And it didn't hurt that my wife was in the same business and understood exactly what it takes to really do the job.

Peace,

Harry

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