John Donne once said “When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.” Donne was a poet and a preacher and someone who obviously knew a little something about coping with the death of someone close. When I started this blog (yesterday) I fully intended on keeping it professional; however, sometimes it’s hard to separate the personal from the individual, and while I wanted to post about my findings on local grass fed beef (that can wait), but the former lies heavy on my heart and I think this is the best way for me to work through how I feel and share one man’s legacy.
Mr. Raz was a teacher who was on my team for the last couple of years(he passed away this morning and it feels so surreal to talk about him in past tense) and a man I had come to know and love over the last several years. He was an older man, probably upper sixties, but still a teacher so passionate about literature and so wise in his spectrum of knowledge about not only literature, but also in history, art, and music, some of it perhaps gained by his teaching stint in South Africa.
I know he had been dealing with some health issues and the pressure of teaching in such a turbulent time probably had sadly also taken a toll, and while he may not have fit the mold of what the current administration deemed a “great” teacher, he made an impact on his students, because he “still” loved what he did and truly cared about the well being of his students. I don’t want to sully his good name by getting into educational politics so I’ll stop there and suffice to say Mr. Raz may very well have been a relic of the past . He believed our students needed to be exposed to classical literature and if he loved it then they couldn’t help but love it too, and by golly I think most of them did. Another teacher described him as a “ray of sunshine” in our hallway; he changed his music in his room according to the literary era and drew some amazing artwork on the board of the Grendel and Beowulf battle among other things. He always absorbed his students in whatever we were reading.
Apart from the profession, he was a sweet, thoughtful man and a holiday rarely passed that we (his team members) didn’t receive a little token of some sort whether it be candy or a little skeleton for Halloween; I couldn’t help but think with all he had going on he always stopped to think about others. So today, I want to pause and reflect on him and take a little piece of that tattered page–his legacy–as I would ask any of you who will be heading back into your classrooms this year or any workplace for that matter–and do just a little fine translation to help make this world a better place if even for a fleeting moment, because we never know when that bell will toll for us. Life teaches us invaluable lessons, but death teaches us about our own mortality, life’s brevity, and what we leave behind when our vessel is gone.
Please keep Mr. Raz and his family in your thoughts and prayers.