Sometimes writing is cathartic. Sometimes it is a release. Sometimes it is just painful. For me, it is always necessary.
I have lost friends and colleagues before, but never in the same year I was working with them. I guess I’ve been lucky, but that changed this week.
The last year and a half, I was lucky to work with Mr. Roy Marley. This transplanted Californian, with his laid back, type B personality, was a real change from my other two ELA buddies, both of whom are type A women just like me. Marley was our calm in a storm. His mantra, “Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on.” (which he printed out and laminated for all three of us to hang in our rooms) was the very essence of how he lived his life. He never let anything get him down for long. He protected everyone around him from bad news, and he ran his classroom in such a way that his students knew they were somewhere safe.
The morning I found out we lost Marley, I had to proctor our state algebra exam. I kept tearing up, and I just breathed through it as best I could so as not to distract the kids from the task at hand. I never got to talk with my other two ELA peeps that day. When we finally did, it was pretty awful. But we had each other, and that was good.
It’s weird the stuff that gets to you. I had to look up something on my website because I wasn’t near my computer, and there was his name, right above mine, on our school webpage. I found the laminated sign behind something I had hung over it for a couple of days. A post from his Facebook came up on my feed. His name still pops up on email as a suggestion when I send something to the team.
There is just a void. When we freak out, who’s going to be the calm? Who’s going to irritate us with a laissez faire attitude toward something we normally think is a pressing matter? Who is going to laugh when we gush about the binder we organized or the new batch of school supplies we’ve just bought? I imagine we will hear him in our heads for a while. And that’s the way it should be. The last big thing we need to do is clean out his room. One of my team members showed us this excerpt from an Emily Dickinson poem:
The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –
I hope he knew how much we valued his input, friendship, and calm. I hope his wife and daughters know how much his students loved him. I hope they can get some peace from that.
As we embark on interviewing for a person to fill his position, I hope they know what big shoes they have to fill. And I hope we can see past his shadow to give the new person a chance to become a part of our team.