I’m done with bad days, I made up my mind about that today. I’ve decided instead that some days I might have to work harder than others to see the beauty in the world – to see all the signs that are all around me. Today was one of those days from the moment my feet hit the floor. I knew it would be.
Two years ago today, a dear friend of mine died. I describe him as a dear friend – and I am certain that if any of our other friends read this, they’d use a similar descriptor. Eddie had a way about him that made lots of people feel like they were in his inner circle. It wasn’t contrived or fake; it was authentic and amazing. After we left the Exeter area, my monthly, at minimum, Friday night calls from Eddie were how I stayed connected. I would ask how he and his family were doing and he would share stories about Jeanne and Morgan, then ask about my family. Eddie had a knack for not only listening to my stories, but enjoying them. His laugh was one that made you feel liked you earned something special. I’ve seen that in only a couple of other people in my life, but that was something I first noticed in Ed. He was a gentle giant with a heart as big as his personality.
We shared a classroom for most of my time at CMS, but it was during my last year that I realized just how carefully he kept tabs on me. Eddie was a worrier like you read about, especially about those he cared for. Often we’d arrive early and sit in our classroom getting ready for the day. He always arrived with at least one vat of iced coffee for himself…and usually a tray of coffees for his pals. He knew everyone’s order. In that last year, I was pregnant with my son. I told my team before anyone else; they were my people. Eddie, for his part, started to worry. He was overjoyed, but worried. No matter where I went in those early mornings during the first few months of my pregnancy, Eddie was fairly convinced I was sick. Other friends would stop by and he’d gesture to the bathroom…or shrug and say “I don’t think she feels good.” I’d pass that person on my way back from the photocopier (I was never actually in the bathroom…I only got sick once in my pregnancy with Cappy…and it was at home in my bathroom…lucky, I know) and get a strange look as I said my usual, trying to be cheery “Good morning!” It took me a long while to figure out what was going on, but once I did, I loved it. Poor Eddie spent a solid month thinking I was heaving my guts out every morning…and I was just photocopying papers. It’s still one of my favorite memories of him.
Ed was a phenomenal special educator. The kind who is held up as exemplary by colleagues, as well as the families he worked with. The kind who wins awards. The kind who inspired students to say “He changed my life.” He had a way of holding kids accountable and loving them dearly all at the same time. He believed in them and loved them like nothing I’ve ever seen. Take the most challenging, hot mess of a student and Eddie would find a way to reach them. That isn’t grandstanding, that’s truly what he did.
So, this morning was tough. I thought a lot about Ed’s family and the hole I know they feel so acutely. I was okay until I started putting my make-up on and then I got a text from a former colleague who was on our team. And then I texted another. Even after all these years, we’re still a family. Eddie was on a lot of minds. I cried through all of my make-up application, which I’m fairly certain defeated the purpose, but there it was. I knew if Eddie could see me, he’d tell me I was being ridiculous and to pull it together…but he’d hug me as he told me that.
I didn’t want today to be a ‘bad’ day. So, that’s when I decided that today would be a day when I might have to work a little harder to see the beauty around me. But I knew I could do it. I saw it in the face of a student who struggled mightily during his first quarter, turned it around in the second quarter and who sat with me today to tell me the steps he’s making so he can graduate. My gosh, he was so proud. Thank you, Eddie. I heard it in the words of the man at the café who said to the baker “It must be so nice to be able to create something like that.” Thank you, Eddie. I felt it in the words of a couple of friends who, without knowing why, could see that I was a little fragile today and they handled me with a little extra kindess. Thank you, Eddie. I saw it in the face of Lou as she opened the door for me when I got home and I heard it in the laugh of Cappy as we talked before he went to bed. Thank you, Eddie.
For you, Eddie – who I miss more than I will ever be able to express – thank you for continuing to teach me the important lessons: “All men have stars, but they are not the same things for everyone. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent. You—You alone will have stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so, it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night. You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me… You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry