I attended a memorial service yesterday for a relative who died after a long and hard fought battle against cancer. Ellen was just forty two when she left us. Those who spoke at the service related how Ellen was a happy, funny, fun loving, clean living kind of gal who brought joy to all who knew her. All of those descriptions paint a picture of who she was and how she lived her life. In the more than 300 pictures that played on the screen in the funeral home before the service, she had a beaming smile in almost all of them. But Ellen was also a superb educator. Her mom is a retired teacher from the same district who won numerous awards for her excellence in teaching. Her grandmother was also a distinguished career teacher as is her sister.
Ellen had gone back to school to earn two graduate degrees with one of them being a degree in special needs education. One of her long term colleagues spoke of how much of an amazing teacher she was to her kindergarten class of special needs children. She continued to teach half days even after the cancer was taking a serious toll on her and was devastated when she realized that she must stop teaching because her students deserved more than her failing health could allow her to give.
As I listened to the minister and her colleague speak of what a wonderful human being and gifted teacher she was, I knew from personal experience that everything they said was true. I also realized that Ellen is typical of so many atypical people in the field of education who have dedicated their lives to the service of others. All that is good and just in our society stems from people like Ellen. Though everyone’s job has purpose and makes a contribution to our society, there are those who walk gracefully and quietly among us to serve others. Thankfully, there are public safety officials, military personnel, mental health professionals and teachers who work wonders every day they serve. These people who have chosen noble callings like teaching make the world a better place for the rest of us.
As the packed service illustrated, Ellen was definitely one who lived her life well, with purpose and with tremendous impact on many.