This picture is some of the loved ones from my school when I was a principal in Florida. But no, it was not "my" school, ever. It was "our" school. I remember when I was hired in 2004, I was told by the Superintendent when he called me to offer me the position that the reason I was unanimously chosen by the committee over so many more qualified applicants (I am NOT joking about that---I was literally the least qualified, to be perfectly honest) was the use of the word "we" instead of "I". This is something that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years. I share it with my Educational Leadership students who are all teachers who want to become school leaders in some capacity. In other words, they want to help teachers grow so the teachers can help their students grow. I try to share with them how much the culture of a school can feel so "shared" if you are passionate about making it so. I have been in education all my years of having a career, and I can honestly say that every job I've ever had has been my favorite. I love building treasured relationships and helping watch the culture of schools all over the world grow in love. The school that plays and prays together stays together.
The reason we are all gathered here together was to reminisce, laugh, cry, and hug over losing one of our treasured soulmates who made work "not work". We haven't really lost her, though, have we, if we continue to share our fondest memories with anyone else who will listen? Okay, honestly, I share her Kelly-isms when I teach, as she was filled with comedy gold. So, my advice is to not ever wait one more precious second of the day, week, month, year, or lifetime without telling someone you love (how about everyone you love?) that you love them and why you love them. What is the risk? Embarrassing yourself over sharing too much emotion? Get over yourself. Dave and I were talking about why some people avoid going to funerals or services for friends or family who have died. His theory was that many folks simply don't know what to say to the family of the loved one who has passed away. I suspect it might be that I facilitate conversations for a living, or maybe I facilitate conversations for a living because I love sharing my thoughts and helping others share theirs, but I consider it a true honor to speak to loved ones of my friends or family who have passed away. So, if someone dies, what do you say to the family and friends who are grieving so intensely and feeling that raw emotion? Many think that if they bring up a memory, it will "hurt" the ones left behind too much. I, for one, relished in people sharing their memories of my mother after she passed away in 2005. Did I cry when they shared a story? Yep, sometimes, and sometimes I laughed outloud. And sometimes, I did both. I sure wouldn't have wanted it any other way, though.
What I experienced yesterday at the Celebration of Life for our dear "famous for her one-liners" Kelly Edelman was pure and unbridled love, joy, faith, and hope. I strongly suspect that she is sitting at the feet of Jesus asking him (in the Joey from "Friends" voice), "How you doin'?" Who knows? She may wind up as His court jester for awhile----she sure was mine for the last 18 years. Instead of avoiding her three beautiful adult "children", I hugged them fiercely and kissed their cheeks as much as they could stand over the last couple of days. Why? They remind me so much of their mom, and their mom would be so very proud of them. But what happens if we stand back and don't say how we feel? The loved ones will miss hearing a nugget of joy that the deceased person brought to you. Please don't hold back. Say something....
I hugged more this weekend than I have in a long time. The administrative assistant at the school where I was blessed to be principal for 8 years has become one of my dearest friends, and Dave and I got to stay with her and her husband this weekend. What did we do the most? Talk and hug. We said how we felt about life events. We shared tears and laughter, and we became even closer (I didn't know it was possible) than we were before (and I might add that we've known each other since 1998). Cindy Dooley was always called my "confidential secretary" but good grief! She was (and still is) so much more. Our mutual affection and trust are aspects I will cherish forever. She has a 6th sense about things that no human should have, and I get to be one of the recipients of that amazing sense. Why? We say something to each other.
I just found out another dear friend dealt with cancer during COVID. I considered letting it slide----we laugh and joke when we're together, and maybe it would be uncomfortable to talk about it now. Nope! We've been texting for the last hour, talking and joking about our working together years and talking about how prayers of serenity are being said while they heal. It would have been so easy to let that go....don't rock the boat or bring up a tough time, right? Nope! I said something, and he said something, and all is well in the world.
I don't know any of the reasons why bad things happen to good people. I don't even pretend to know. I do know that, from a fierce and loyal friendship with a woman who was about as close to being made in Christ's own image, Kelly didn't "deserve" to die. But that isn't what it's about, is it? She did die, and we rejoiced in celebrating all the Kelly-isms we could think of this weekend. Why? Because we wanted to say something! I'm glad we did.
Just for today, perhaps consider someone who you might not have talked to in a while or maybe even had a falling out with, and reach out and say something. I suspect you won't be sorry you did.