One week ago today (almost one week after my daughter’s graduation), we learned that a beloved teacher of my daughter’s died from a tragic hiking accident. He had personally written and read out loud on tribute day a short description of each and every student in the 8th grade (70 students in total). This was only a fraction of his contribution to each and every student he met, taught and spent time with in the past 25 years at this particular school (one of two schools where he taught).
He exemplified universal love and acceptance and this is the religion he taught at a catholic school. Every assignment began with questions and not directives because he wanted his students to create their own models of what they thought religion meant and not what he thought it did or what it meant to him. His philosophy was about the individual and connecting with and celebrating individuals strengths and differences. He treated each child with such positivity, empathy and respect that my daughter along with her friends spent their free time pre-practice and during the day in his room just chatting with him. He was the go to teacher, counselor, coach and de-facto parent and friend to so many children, students and appreciated by all parents.
There is a void and will be a void when the students return to school though they will be next door on the HS campus. The incoming 8th graders will never know Mr M but they will certainly hear and have heard about him.
Through tears and, at times, shock and disbelief, people have shared how they are coping with the loss. One parent shared how she reminded her daughter when she mentioned missing him that we can continue his legacy by remembering how he was in our daily interactions with others. Another parent mentioned that he once said that any day he lived past 52 years would be a blessing as both his Father and brother passed at that age (he died at 57).
Too soon but grateful our children met and knew him. It’s hard to understand why things happen the way they do but it’s times like these when being philosophical seems to help: it helps to believe that the universe works in its own way.
I think about how much he accomplished in his lifetime and how others can live longer lives and not accomplish a fraction of what he did. I share as a reminder that every day is a blessing for which we do not know the duration so we must embrace, appreciate and live fully each day.