Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To You, Cheryl

Last Friday, a dear friend lost her battle with cancer. I posted about it once upon a time here.

It came as a shock. I was reading
Oh, the Places You'll Go! to my AP students on their final day of class when my co-chair came to the door to tell me. We looked at one another and there weren't any words. What can one say in a moment such as this?

You see, Cheryl was a feisty, charismatic, ethical, and entirely beautiful human being. Every teacher who has ever worked with her can only say all that is good about her. She was only 62. She'd taught in our district for nearly 25 years and she was really, really talented at it. Those who CAN teach. She was to retire at the end of this year. And then the ovarian cancer we thought she'd beaten last year returned. Everywhere. And suddenly time seemed to be of such import to all of us who were touched by her.

Today, after her husband had a chance to take what he wanted of his wife's career, several of us went to help clean out some of her things from her classroom. And still, the space smacked of Cheryl: the posters, the unique and quirky teaching aids, the videos and beautiful volumes of poetry. The treasured mythology projects of bygone students. I teared up to see her handwriting still scrawled on the calendar--the little reminders we teachers give ourselves.

It felt healing, spending some time in a space that was so uniquely Cheryl just as I knew her. To be in a room that she designed, in a space that had soaked in her energy day after day. Sometimes I feel as though a teacher's classroom is a statement about their personality and teaching style. With Cheryl, this was true. As I worked, it struck me what a beautiful life she's lived. Until the end, she loved teaching. Her students adored her, trusted her, felt safe in this room because she was there. She was wise and gracious and funny. She taught them the double entendres in Shakespeare's plays and made them act out balcony and fight scenes. She took them out on the back lawn under the trees and made each one lay stomach-down and stare at the blades of grass when they read

Her death is a tragedy. But her life, her life is just as I think she would have wanted it. She raised three kids. Had a happy second marriage. She loved a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with friends. She read--oh, how she read. She was the best at suggesting good, entertaining books. She spent each day of her life imparting only the most important gifts to the future. Her life was a good one.

Henry David Thoreau, whom Cheryl adored, once wrote, "...I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Cheryl LIVED. Fully. I, like so many others, will miss her. I only hope that I can live my life in a way she did.


Shannon said...

I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like the world needs more Cheryls.

Stephanie said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I'm sorry.

Sephalo said...

I'm so sorry Rookie girl... that sucks.

Wendy said...

:( Cancer can suck it! (to quote my favorite author.)

Jen said...

I often wish I could punch Cancer in the face. This is a beautiful tribute. sounds like she was/is a wonderful person.

Kris said...

Oh, this is lovely. I am so sorry for your sadness.

I hate cancer.

Amber said...

Beautiful people come into our lives to touch us in beautiful ways! Sorry for your loss, but I rejoice for how she touched your life. Love you!

Lildonbro said...

That is a wonderful quote and exactly how I have been feeling for the past few weeks. I am sorry to hear that you lost your coworker, but it sounds like, as you said, her life was lived the way it should have been.