The clouds are crying. The sky is overcast as a slow steady rain falls.
Every day of every week, every hour of every day, every minute of every hour, every second of each minute, the scenario can be the same anywhere and everywhere.
But this is different. This is home, my home, Livingston Parish, Louisiana.
When people ask my school, I do not reply with the universities where I earned degrees or the institutions of higher learning where I have taught. I say Albany, or Albany Elementary, Albany Springfield Junior High, and Albany High School to be specific.
It is a fact of life that people grow older and things change. Sickness and death are a part of the natural processes. We’ve each experienced both with friends and family. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs one may never be able to know the causes while they walk in their own steps. I accept that because to me life and death are personal. No two people celebrate or mourn in the same manner, and I feel those differences we have in methods of commemoration or grieving are good. Even within us as individuals the process is never exactly the same with joy or sadness.
Within the past few days, one of our high school teachers passed away rather suddenly. My classmates and I shared remembrances with one another. We pondered. We reflected. We mourn her passing yet we also celebrate her life and the impact which she had on us not only back then as students but for today and for any tomorrows that we are here because she helped us become who we are.
We also mourn the passing of two of our classmates. I did not know either of these men very well. Being a small local school, however, there were few people who did not know everyone. Consider that when you’re high school graduating class consists of 60 students and more than half had been your classmates since kindergarten it’s not a stretch to say everyone knew everyone. The entire high school, freshman through senior, had a population of 300+ students. Many were the siblings of those in another grade. For many of us our parents had been classmates. It was difficult not to have some connection or association with your peers.
I saw my teacher on numerous occasions after high school graduation. We spoke while I was an undergraduate, during grad school, and during my visits back home while I did my doctoral work. We spoke because I enjoyed talking, and she was interested. Without saying, she knew that she played a role in my successes. You see she was a teacher and that title was not limited to merely the time spent inside her classroom. For the educator, teaching is a career that never ends, a commitment which never wanes, a responsibility that never ends, and a thirst that is never fully quenched.
With the two men who passed away this past week, I saw each less than a handful of times since graduation. The man who passed away yesterday attended the class reunion a few years ago that I was unable to attend, and I saw pictures of him along with pictures of other classmates who attended. From those photographs, to me the girls seem to have grown prettier, and we guys look essentially the same since most of us began either the balding or graying process back in high school.
The beginning of life and the passing of life happen every moment and anywhere. It is a natural process of existence. It’s just that we often fail to notice when the events are outside our sphere. There are times to laugh and there are times to cry. At times we can do both simultaneously. We never know what tomorrow may bring or what may and can happen in the next instant.
We do, however, know what happened yesterday. That is our history. That is our legacy. Let us appreciate that so that we can cherish the present moment.
The sky may be overcast up here in Maryland. The clouds here may be crying. I do not know exactly what the weather is like at this precise moment back in Albany, Holden, Springfield, and the Hungarian Settlement area, but I hear the sniffles and see and feel the tears of classmates, neighbors, friends just as if they were the clouds overhead me at this time and location. It can seem dreary, but if can be calming because rain may fall but without that rain a blossom will not become a strawberry. Shed your tears and allow positive feelings to occupy that void.
Rest in peace my teacher and former classmates who have passed and please take care my teachers, classmates, and friends attending the respective services. While some may be unable to attend these and sadly what will be future services physically we are all present whether it is as one or many because we are all a part of Albany High, and that area of Albany, Holden, Springfield, and the Hungarian Settlement of Livingston Parish.