Copyright © Louis Schmier
Date: Sat 4/21/2007 5:11 AM
I want to say something about Trish, our department secretary. She is retiring at the end of this semester after thirty years at VSU, and I am not a happy camper. In fits of selfishness, over the past months I have tried everything in my power to change her mind. I have asked, cried, pleaded, begged, conspired, and even offered a bribe of weekly donuts and keeping the candy jar on the desk filled with Tootsie Rolls. Nothing.
I wish you all could know her; not as a secretary, but as a person. Oh, that I possessed the talent of a Keats to write an ode to Trish. She deserves one, for there is nothing but an "ode-iousness" about her. Yeah, she doesn't have all those degrees and publications and grants and renown and reputation. She has something far more. Without one iota of exaggeration, she is as noble, caring, kindly, respecting, appreciating, humble, patient, compassionate, empathetic, moral, ethical, and sacred a human being as I have known. In all the years of the three decades she has cared for me, I have never seen a sneer distort her angelic face; I have never heard a cross word cross her lips; I never seen her body stiffen with annoyance; I have never seen a fidget of impatience shake her; I have never heard a loudness distort her soft melodious voice; I have never seen a drop dampen her spirit; I have never seen a hint of a cloud darkening her heart. Everyone is important to her, be she or he a student, a member of the staff, a member of the faculty, or an administrator. In her eyes, everyone is equal. I have two lasting images of Trish etched into my soul. One is of her tearfully hugging me with a silent smile in support and encouragement when we learned I had cancer. The second is of her tearfully hugging me with a smile in joy when we learned they had gotten the cancer out.
I won't be able to attend her retirement "party." But if I could and if by some miracle she would let me get up and say something, I could say all I have to say and all I feel in eight words: "Trish is a good person. I love her." Yeah, that says it all. Nothing more need be said. What more can you say about another human being? Now what I am about to say may sound trite, but it is no less true. I will hug her goodbye with disbelief in a couple of weeks as I leave to teach in China. I know I will my eyes will get watery and a tear or two will flow down my cheek. I know my voice will crack if I'm stupid enough to try to say anything. I know my breathing will become a bit labored. I know my body will quiver slightly with more than a slight sadness. But, it won't hit me until I return, walk into the department office and she won't be there to light up and warm the place with her aura. Then, and only then, will I realize the nightmare of her departure was real, feel my loss, and feel lost. She won't be there. She won't be there! She won't ever be there!! Instead, there will be an irreparable hole torn in my universe. Then, it will hit me that I have lost a colleague; I have lost a friend; but, most important, I have lost a teacher.
You know, so often we make the mistake when we capsulate someone's career into a series of numbers: X number of books published, X number of grants received, X number of years in the profession, X number pages in a resume, X numbers of years on the job, X, X, X, X.
But, you know, it is one thing to recount a life by counting; it is another thing to learn from someone's life. In her poem, "The Dash," Linda Ellis reminds us that we each will some day have our lives represented by two dates: the date of our birth and the date of our death. But, what matters most is the dash between those years. That dash represents all the time we have spent alive on earth and all that we have done. We decide what that dash will be worth. And, its worth will not be judged by how we lived and loved and spent our dash. She ends her poem with these words:
So when your eulogy is being read with your life's action to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?
If you want to know how Trish is spending her dash, if you want to know her legacy to me, if you want to know what I have learned as her student over the decades, read the words of 1 Corinthians 13 1-13.
I, for one, will miss her deeply; oh so deeply will I miss her.
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History www.therandomthoughts.com Valdosta State University www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~\ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~\/ \ /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" - \____