A couple of days gone, but the sadness and gravity of the news lingers. An amazing person… woman, teacher, artist, wife, friend, mentor, climber, biker, hiker… died too soon.
News stories, emails, Facebook posts scream the news over and over. Tributes, kind words, and grief surround the empty reality that as a new school year begins, someone who was supposed to be in her classroom this week, will not be there. Now it is memories that keep Pat in our hearts.
Pat and I started at Valencia High School the same year. We experienced personnel changes, modernizations, good years and tough years. Throughout changes, Pat was a constant. Constant optimism, constant enthusiasm, constant joy.
Adjectives that describe her flow easily: vibrant, kind, adventurous, passionate, loving, creative. One key description is that she was an outstanding teacher! She earned the respect of students and colleagues and operated with an ethic of care. Reading the kind words of my colleagues and of Pat’s former students demonstrate over and over the impact… the impression she leaves in our hearts and minds.
She made people better. Better artists, runners, and students. She saw potential in people even when they did not see it in themselves and she worked to bring it out. She wanted students to believe in themselves as much as she believed in them. I hope those students who worked with her continue in her honor. Desire better, keep running, push into possibility.
I have some favorite memories. One is a Halloween costume (probably ten years ago), when she showed up at the faculty lunch with cereal box tops attached to her clothes. “I’m a cereal killer!” she exclaimed.
We shared a love of chocolate. We used to compete for the dark chocolate on the principal’s desk. We both sifted through the treats to find our favorites and if they were gone we knew the other showed up first.
At department chair meetings, our administrators kindly placed chocolate in the middle of the table. Pat would place her empty wrappers in front of me and make comments about how much chocolate I needed to get through the meetings. Her eyes twinkled as we pushed those wrappers back and forth between us.
She lived around the corner from me. Every year Pat and I would catch up at an event and say to each other, “We need to get together with a good bottle of wine!” We never did.
Numerous memories and stories are being told this week. As we all process the loss of a person we loved and respected, I am one of many people weighted by sadness.
Now the consummate teacher is teaching us to deal with life and death. What are the lessons learned?
The school year still begins in a week. The loss is real and devastating. No doubt there will be more tears, tributes and memories on a common theme: Pat lived inspired.
We love her and we miss her.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran