While I waited for a moment to talk to you, I looked through your scrapbooks. If I didn't know how much you loved teaching, it sure shows in all the albums of all the years you've taught first grade. Some of the pictures were hard to look at. The ones from two years ago, when you were first diagnosed. The ones where you had lost your hair and it was just beginning to grow back. But the thing I noticed was how happy you were in every single picture. Whether it was in your classroom or out with friends or walking at Relay for Life, or playing board games with your family, you are always smiling.
It had occurred to me over the weekend that I don't have a single picture of you. All of our time together was just casual fun and nothing that was camera worthy at the time. When I looked at the boards full of pictures, though, I saw the one that you had taken of all of us at Relay this year. It's not just of us, but it's of a group of your friends, which seems appropriate. I bet fifty people consider you on of their best friends. I know I do.
I saw Samantha there. I wonder what she might think. She was so cute in your classroom last year. Now a big second grader. Did I tell you that I see Zoe every day getting off the bus? She helps her little brother Gabe get to Kindergarten now. She's as adorable as ever. Always reminds me of you as she just epitomizes your class last year.
When I did get a moment with you, I wasn't alone. Michelle wanted us to see you together, and it seemed like she needed someone to be her strength, so I did. I know you would have, too. She talked about how you came to her room that Thursday and asked for a hug. It's so like you. It's the only thing you ever asked for.
I have to apologize, I didn't speak with all of your family that was there. They don't know me, and I am sure that my words have been repeated over and over all day. I actually was trying to leave, not that I wanted to leave you, but all those people, all that crying, I'm sure you would have been uncomfortable there, too. As I left I saw our principal. She hugged me and we talked for a moment, but I was losing control of my tears and so I left.
Which is when I saw Sue. I know you told me to look out for her. You said on Tuesday that she was taking all of this so hard, and I promised you I would be there for her. But she was the one who held me up in that foyer. I met her parents and her stepkids. I know I should have stayed to be there if she needed me, but I wasn't strong enough today. I will keep my promise to you, though, and I'll be strong enough when she needs me to be.
I guess I'm just writing because I had things I wanted to say that I didn't get a chance to. I wanted to see you last week but this cold kept me out of the hospital room. I know that was the smart decision at the time, but it makes me ache now. Today I just wanted a great big Pam hug, but you couldn't give any more hugs. And I couldn't even give one to you.
Pam, all those people in that room have known you for years. Your siblings, your parents, your fellow teachers, even students. I have only known you this past year. I can't even remember the exact day that we met, or when our relationship changed from me being your sub to us being friends. I think with you, you're already friends with someone whenever you meet them. You have been my biggest supporter this past year; my biggest encourager. You've demonstrated to me what a great teacher is, and what a great friend is. You've been the role model for me that has shown me how to blend my Christian faith into my friendships, my teaching and my professional life. You were the first person to tell me of the openings at school and the first person to call and ask how my interviews went. You were unabashedly honest with me when I interviewed elsewhere about your hope that I get my own classroom but your selfish desire that I get one at your school.
And I did. Just down the hall from Room 3. Pam's room.
Tomorrow I would have taught your class for the first time. I know we were both looking forward to that. And our every other week lunches together. I will miss those.
I know why you can't be here for me to talk to. I know where you are and I am truly so very happy for you. I know that God's arms opened wide when you arrived and I know without a doubt that while you weren't rewarded here on earth with a longer life, a loving husband, or children of your own, I know that your blessings are eternal ones and God has great plans for you in Heaven.
But I want you to know how much I'm going to miss you. How much I was looking forward to our friendship growing this year. How much I still had to learn from you.
I will keep an eye on Sue. And on Room 3. I will try my best to love all my students with the heart you loved your students with. And I will try to remember how selfless you were in this life and to be much the same.
I love you, Pam. I miss you like crazy already. I don't wish you back, as I know you are dancing with your brother and you are rejoicing with God, but I look forward to the day when I can see you again. I can only imagine how great that hug will feel.
Love always, in Christ,