40 Days: 022710-D11.0

Good evening…It is 9:09 p.m.

Much to share about this day. But first, I must take a moment and remember Emily.

Emily Davis was a student at my school, who was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma in February 2002. In the two years that she battled her cancer, she remained selfless and optimistic, immersed in her artwork and in working with others. She died six years ago today. She was 15.

I had the distinct honor to teach Emily’s brother and sister, and it is through them and their parents that I have been touched by Emily’s kindness, love, and sensitivity toward others. Emi will continue to inspire me to do my very best as an educator and as a human being, always remembering how precious life is, and how we must always treasure the moments we have with each other.

I lost my own mother to cancer almost exactly two years to the day when she was diagnosed, and many of you well know that my sister continues her brave battle. The courage and bravery that I have seen from Emily, my mother, and Cindy, as well as from a recent grad and good friend, Amanda, remind me every day that the celebration of our lives is in our hands every moment of every waking hour. We must believe in this moment, in all its beauty, and live it like no other.

Emily, we will never forget you. May we all remember your charitable love and kindness, and may we always share that willingly so that others may be touched by your good will as well.

I also wanted to take a moment to remember a friend and colleague of mine who passed away two weeks ago while shoveling snow.

Dave Barnett (photo by Brian Rizzi), a selfless man who loved his photography and jazz with a passion, left us suddenly and too soon. I include below the tribute that I wrote in his memory. It will be published Monday in the school’s memorial edition of the paper, remembering him and celebrating his life.

A Man Supreme

Part I: Acknowledgment

When the phone rang and brought me news of your death, I could not brace myself enough for the shock I felt, the disbelief that you, Dave, my friend, had died. We came to Centennial together in 2003, ready to take on the challenges we were offered, ready to provide assistance and solution wherever possible. Over the years, our professional discussions turned to other things that mattered just as deeply to us: politics, current events, and, of course, music and photography.

So many discussions, left in the air unfinished. I keep waiting for the exhale, the next thought, the next conversation. But all I am left with is silence.

Part II: Resolution

Our last conversations were, of course, about music and photography. Somehow, our meetings about technology always went in that direction. And sometimes, we skipped over the whole mess regarding the troublesome computers altogether and went straight to the latest photo shoot or the jazz CD we happened to pick up in some obscure, used music store.

Just before winter break, when the first big snow storm gave us an extra few days before the holidays, Dave stopped by my room to talk about his music, and how he was having trouble selecting his favorite jazz CDs among the thousands he owned (Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, along with Miles Davis’ A Kind of Blue, ranks high with me). As he was going through the selection process, each CD he picked up was filled with memories, he said; each provided a short story to his life. The process seemed as celebrating as it did melancholic to him, and I wondered why he was doing this.

He did the same thing with his photography. After a lengthy discussion one morning about his own photo work, he came back to my room with a collection of his note cards he had printed years ago (some of those images are printed on page 1). He asked which was my favorite, and when I selected one, he offered it to me as a gift.

Part III: Pursuance

Perhaps it was always our intention to meet about the latest glitches to crash my computers or cripple my printer, but both of us welcomed the excuse to talk about music and photography along the way. Maybe that’s the ultimate lesson I take from my friendship with him: in the end, it’s about the relationships we make with others that truly matter. I remember that last time we spoke on Friday, just before the two snows fell upon us. We listened to new and old jazz, searching for artists whose names had escaped our memories, but the melodies played on. We shook hands, wished each other gentle days ahead, and parted.

Part IV: Psalm

It’s the least I can do to keep a new melody playing and remember your name, to celebrate a life well lived. We’ll miss you, Dave Barnett. Please know that we are grateful for your kindness, your friendship, and your gentle nature. In every way, you were, and will always be, A Man Supreme.

Goodbye, Dave. Centennial will never be the same without you.

I was blessed this morning to spend it in Mt. Airy with about 15 writers, all there to study the art and craft of memoir writing. It is always inspiring to work with other writers, discuss the craft of writing creative nonfiction, and focus on publishing your work with a larger audience. I draw great strength from that.

May this weekend be a blessed one for each of you. Hug your loved ones, and remember to take a little time for yourself. The world’s dizzying whirl makes it hard for us to remember to do that, from time to time. . . .

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