Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dear Mr. Thompson,

I have just returned from seeing you for what I think will be the last time, although your memories and gifts of friendship will fill my heart forever.

It was hard to enter the room.

It was even harder to leave.

The drive home with your broken-hearted friend; a fog.

It was hard to remind your friend, of thirty years, to stay focussed on the fact that you are still here: for a brief glimmering moment, and to take the finite time, to retrace some glorious memories spent, before you silently leave.

My heart is sad for what will be lost.

And while I contemplate what will be lost, I want to tell you what I have through you.

I was so fortunate to have you as my grade five teacher. I think of you in your powder blue suits, your gold glasses,your marvellous Gyanese accent and the sound of your melodic laughter. I think of eyes with compassion and a strong self assured person who could command thirty, crazy, high-strung kids, with the greatest of ease.

Grade five was a blessing. Your class was a reflection of you. I loved how you would start our day with a current events story. Everyday, you would pull down the map point to the country in question and talk, lecture about the events of the day it was all so fluid, so spontanious, so rich. You knew so much. You never talked down, or looked down, you always opened up horizons and borders, enlightened us about countries and traditions abroad. We would sit on the carpet and marvel at how what would appear to be a 'simple news' story brought in by a student, could and would be so much grander in its ramifications on the world's stage.

I loved how you found humour in your disciplining the 'rabble rousers'. I loved how you had a rubber billyclub that you nick named 'The Persuader'. I loved that you would pull out from under your desk, and with a walk of a king, you would hit the bully club in the palm of your hand for dramatic effect, and while it squeaked you would walk over to the rabble rouser and stand over the offending body. You never hit anyone, but that Persuader always had kids in fits of laughter when the Persuader had to be called upon.

I remember on the day you became a legend, when you saw John Betley get ready to send a spit ball over to Ricky Collins, the Persuader was pulled out, we all marvelled at how you 'knew' what was about to happen even though you had never looked up from your desk and Ricky Collins swallowed the spitball rather than admit that he was indeed a rabble rouser.

A great deal was learned in your class, far beyond the three R's. Your classes were great lecture halls, you encouraged minds to explore, you encouraged respect for others, you taught that we all had social responsibility to each other and the community.

I loved it when you had 'yard duty'. Ingrid, Maria and I, would love these times as we would hang out with you in the school yard, follow you around and hear your opinions on our concerns and fears.

I loved the fact that you gave us gangly gals; us oddballs; the monniker of 'Leon's Angels' and through this monniker we felt so special, so important, and so loved.

I adored how you would sing 'Maria' from Westside Story, to Maria. Whenever I hear that song, I am instantly brought back to the ole schoolyard and your beautiful voice and how it was sung with a smile of the heart. A time of true happiness with a fun, compassionate, caring, teacher.

Ever so often when I walk through the my old school grounds I can envision you standing in your beige parka holding court.

I loved how you stood up for what was 'right and just'. You always were a believer in education. No child was ever left behind. No child was lost in the masses. I can marvel at the fact some thirty year later, during our lunches, you can tell me every single one of your students strong suits. You could even tell me the profession of some of your students through intuition, you were never wrong. I was always so surprised at how we all mattered.

After your Leon's Angels moved on to post secondary education, you were promoted, and then promoted again, and again, to where you were one of the big cheese's of education. You were always a humble person. You were always true to your profession and calling. You never lost sight of the task at hand and that was the education of children. And even when you retired you still helped with literacy, how you still volunteered your time to teach children so that they may reach their true potential. How lucky and fortunate those children were to have you by their side.

You were a great man who gave many a child wings so that they may go forward and add to the world. Everyone has something to give, sometimes a child may need a bit more time to see it. And you always made the time through gentle persuasion, to open a child's heart up when they were discouraged and to bring them back to the books to enlighten their souls.

You were a favourite by many, as you did see light in all of us no matter how foggy it may have seen to us at the time..

I was so blessed for that fact that we reconnected five years ago. I have loved our lunches together as adults. I have adored the time with you and Wayne and Bill. Who would have thought that I would have the honour of being a friend to my grade five and six teacher, as well as my gym teacher? It strangely felt like family. It always felt like I was meeting with my 'oddball uncles'. I loved how you would meet me around Scooter's schedule. Always in my neck of the woods, I loved how all of you had a vested interest in my daughter and of my stories of our beleaguered school system. I loved how you 'knew' Scooter through me. And how when I told you of the story of Scooter's race, you laughed, gave that all knowing look you could give, and reassured me that 'Scooter is just like her mom as a kid.'

I loved the friendship. I cherished it. And I loved the wee notes you would send of encouragement, they were always filled with great wisdom and insight. You were always so supportive to me in all my endeavours.

And now, Mr. Thompson, I am so sorry you are leaving us.

I am so sorry for all that the world will lose in your passing. A true hero. A true educator, who gave wings and futures to so, so many.

I am so sorry that we will not have another lunch together.

I am so very happy, blessed and honoured that you were my friend and my teacher.

You were one of a kind.

And you have left your mark with so many and for that I should feel blessed, and I truly do.

But at present, I find it hard to get beyond the loss of you as I leave you behind in the hospital.

So with all due respect Mr. Thompson,( I could never call you Leon, as much as you berated me to) in all due respect Mr. Thompson. I shall miss you.

But for whatever it means, you gave me wings, Mr. Thompson.

You made me part of who I am today.

You taught me a great deal when I was a kid, you continued to teach and support me as an adult.

I thank you, thank you, the earth has lost a true angel, Mr. Thompson.

And God's Speed, dear friend.

The heavens certainly will welcome you with open arms, as you certainly helped a great many spirits, soar.


Kim Ayres said...


Oh, The Joys said...

I'm sorry for your sorrow, D. He sounds lovely.


Mary-LUE said...

What a beautiful tribute... what a beautiful man. My 4th and 5th grade teacher was a man and he had such an amazing influence on me, too. What a gift to reconnect and spend time with all three of those men.

God bless you Mr. Thompson.

carrie said...

What a moving account of a great man Pend. There are many pieces of him that I've seen in some of my own teachers -- but none of them on one person.

Wings are the greatest gift that an educator can give to a child (or adult)and I am so glad that you had Mr. T in your life and Scooter's.

Thinking of you.

Charlie said...

That is the most moving tribute, eulogy, and goodbye I have ever read. If a few hundred words, I feel like I know this beautiful man—or rather, wished I had.

Sayre said...

That was lovely, Pend... I think that if educators knew just how much they influence the lives of the children they teach, they would be so overwhelmed. I wish we could compensate them for the wings that they bestow, but I think that part of the beauty of educators is that they don't do it for money - they do it for love.

jen said...

dude, it's YOU. i've missed you. and what a beautiful post to come back to.

Lisa said...

I am happy to see you are blogging again. But am so very saddened by what's happening to your friend. Sounds like an amazing man.

Sounds like the world was a better place because he was in it.

Lady M said...

What a lovely tribute.

Wonderful teachers changes lives forever.

mamatulip said...

Oh, this brought tears to my eyes. I had a teacher in high school who meant the same to me.

This is a beautiful way to remember a wonderful man.

Caro said...

I am sorry about your friend. Your tribute made me cry. He sounds like a very special person.

Crafty Chica said...

what a beautiful, moving post. i know he sent you a wink of appreciation from the sky above!!

slouching mom said...

A beautiful tribute. What a lovely, lovely man. And you've brought him to life for us, even as he's leaving this life.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

What a sweet post!

I can only hope my students will remember me so kindly!


Zoe said...

what a sweet post. how lucky you are to have had such an amazing teacher.

That girl said...

We've missed you so much. Are you back for good?

This was a lovely tribute to come back to.

Thanks for writing this for all of us to read.

Rock the Cradle said...

I'm astonished at your memories...the power of them. He must have been a tremendous person to inspire you so.

I'm sad he is leaving you, but so glad he was part of your life, and that he showed you yourself in your daughter.

What a lovely gift.

Rock the Cradle said...

I'm astonished at the power of your memories. He must have been a tremendous person to inspire you so much.

I'm sad he is leaving you, but so glad for the time you had with him, and that he showed you yourself in your daughter.

What a lovely gift.

Slackermommy said...

Beautiful, beautiful tribute. I hope my children will encounter a teacher like that in their lifetime.

Maria said...

I think that all of us have a teacher who has shaped us, understood us, taken us places that were just incredible.

Thank you for sharing your story. And hey, thanks for stopping by my blog. Very nice to meet you.

It amazes me that teachers are paid so poorly, it really does.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful.

Mandaroo said...

It was so nice to see your comment on my blog, as I knew (hoped) it meant that you were back with a story, and you did not dissapoint. What a heartwarming story and lovely man. I'm sorry he will be leaving us soon. If only there were more teachers like him, there would be less homeschoolers (like me). I, unfortunately, never had a teacher like yours.

Jocelyn said...

I have never visited this blog and thought, "Well, that was a waste of four minutes." Rather, every post of yours has been amazing and enriching.

Thank you for putting so much onto the page. And I thank Mr. Thompson, too, for helping to foster that ability in you.

flutter said...

What an incredible tribute.

Christina_the_wench said...

Wow. That was amazing. I am sorry for your loss as well, Pend. *hugs*

Mamacita Tina said...

What a lovely tribute to a lovely person. How lucky that you have such wonderful memories of one of your teachers. Hopefully we all have at least one teacher in our lives who influences us so positively and powerfully, I do.

The class picture is awesome! Love his blue suit and all the kids clothes, very telling of the times. Love all the happy, calm faces.

Kevin Charnas said...

I'm sorry, Pend...

That was a beautiful tribute. As was his life. It sounds like he's certainly leaving the world better than how he found it.

Know that I'm thinking of you...and him.

Gina said...

What a wonderful story about one of your mentors. I wish him Godspeed as well.

rak said...

Sounds like he is a man of great character, who spread that goodness around throughout his lifetime. Sounds like it was time well spent on God's planet... so good that he has someone who appreciates him so.

Grim Reality Girl said...

As always Pend, your words have great beauty and paint a beautiful portrait. You can picture the celebrations in heaven when one of the angels comes back home.

Amber said...

What a beautiful tribute and eulogy. I think more of us need to sit down and do the same for teachers who have impacted our lives. Mine was my 6th grade teacher and I can honestly say he was the only teacher who ever inspired me.

Ruth Dynamite said...

Oh Pend, such a gift you give to those who have given so much.

Kristin said...

No one has quite the opportunity to emotionally touch a person the way a truly great and loving teacher does... lovely, lovely post.

Catch said...

this was wonderful Pen and I am sure Mr Thompson is smiling as he reads it! I am sorry you are losing Mr Thompson but how wonderful that you had him in your life! Hugs Sweet Lady!

hautemama said...

Aww what a touching post. Sorry for your loss.

Isn't it amazing how much of an effect teachers have on us?

I bet we can all pick out our best and worst teachers in a heartbeat!

meanie said...

goosebumps. sometimes i worry that teachers are not able to have this kind of impact on kids anymore.

FENICLE said...

Wow, what a wonderful tribute. God Bless him and you!

chicaloungin said...

He looks like a fantastic man. Lucky you for reconnecting, P and having the chance to thank a teacher.

Momo Fali said...

Gulp. This was beautiful.

Margot Potter said...

You have such a gift with language. I love this tribute, absolutely beautiful.

It's always interesting to me the way in which people can affect our lives in such profound ways. It's easy to miss what's real, and this post is all about that.

With sympathy,

Crow said...

It's amazing what effects teacher we had so long ago can make on our current lives. I lost a teacher that meant just as much to me awhile ago. God bless the teachers that go the extra mile for the kids! My thoughts and prayers are with you. :)

Tink said...

So beautiful. I think he would have been honored...

Jen said...

I always wished and longed to have a teacher like that. It wasn't until college I was able to feel that sort of influence.

This was beautiful.

When the time comes, rest in peace Mr. Thompson. May God bless your soul.

ablondeblogger said...

Awww, how beautiful, Penn. I'm so sorry for your loss. (((((HUGS)))))

Emily said...

This is such a beautiful tribute.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

"You gave me wings."

Amen. My first grade teacher gave me wings and I've never forgotten that.

Jess Riley said...

This was the most gorgeous bit of writing--blog, book, or otherwise--I've read in weeks. Here's to Mr. Thompson and the thousands of teachers who have inspired us in classrooms all over the world.

Cheesy said...

Even though your posts a few and far between I just adore each and every one of them.. I am saddened to hear of your loss but delighted that you had this wonderful soul in your life.
Until you can meet again and truely be one of "Leon's Angels" be at peace my friend.

Billychic said...

That was so, so beautiful. I'm so sorry for your loss...but your tribute shines. You are both very lucky to have known each other.

Thanks so much for stopping by to check on my health, etc - I appreciated knowing people cared, btw.

Hugs to you

My Husband Calls Me Weird said...

I am very sorry for your loss. He sounds like a wonderful human being. You were blessed to know him.


Anonymous said...

Wow. What a beautiful tribute. You always write beautiful stories, but even if you were not you could make it beautiful. You have that touch. I wish I had a teacher as special as yours.

Thank you for your recent comment and prayers. It truly means a lot:)6

urban-urchin said...

You've suffered a lot of loss over the last year. I'm so sorry.

Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to an amazing teacher.

Attila The Mom said...

:::sniff sniff:::

DebbieDoesLife said...

Gosh, Pen. You've had more than your share of good-byes it seems. Wonderful tribute to a wonderful teacher. He would be proud.

Catherine said...

Nobody can appreciate another human being the way that you do, Pend. You truly commemorate your friends and family in ways that are nothing short of breathtaking. But I am so sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing these wonderful people with us.

Moobs said...

What a life to have lived.

kim said...

You told his story beautifully!

I've missed you too! I was so shocked to see that you had visited me...its been a long time!
Im glad you are back around, no more 6 month breaks for you either!

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

Oh my...I can't even begin to read this without the tears rolling.

What a beautiful tribute for an equally beautiful person. Love the photos.

Hugs to you.