Yesterday I attended the funeral of a coworker whom I’ve known for almost a decade but yet did not know very well. Teaching is already an isolating job where you could literally go hours without seeing another adult, let alone an adult that worked in another building on campus.
I listened to my coworker’s friends and family speak and realized that his man I worked with never lost his temper, never raised his voice. Trust me, that is an angelic feat if you work with children. Not once had I heard my own children speak ill of him. Not once had I heard a student say that he yelled at them. Even in the past three years that I’ve worked with him despite my countless errors with lunch count, he took it in stride, always assured me, and never blamed me.
And that’s when I realized how much my life was richer for knowing him. How much more joy would I have had in my life if I had known him better? I began to feel disappointed in myself for not recognizing this earlier, for listening to and participating in gossip, for allowing the stress of this wonderful yet all-consuming job eat away at my core when someone tapped me on the shoulder at the end of the funeral.
It was a family friend offering me a Vietnamese sandwich and I almost cried. Here it was, my coworker fed my own children and my students for years and now he was feeding me. Even during a brief moment when I beating myself up in my head, he still managed to get me out of mine and feed me when I needed it the most.
Rest In Peace, my friend. Peace be with you. And with your spirit.