Yesterday was All Saints' Day and until this year, it had never really meant anything to me. In the Anglican church, All Saints' Day uses the liturgy for a funeral rite as an opportunity to celebrate those who have passed on. So, instead of a sermon yesterday, members of the congregation were encouraged to share about a person that had been a blessing to them while they were alive.
I really hate crying in public but yesterday I couldn’t hold it back.
Back in February, my mother called to inform me that my high school mentor, teacher and friend Mrs. Brown had passed away unexpectedly. At the time, I was speechless. I remember calling my best friend, momentarily breaking my silence to ask her if she had heard. And then we were speechless together, letting the silence hang between us as we processed our grief. I cried myself to sleep that night and was in a pretty bad funk the rest of the week. But with being rejected from yet another job and other issues that came up, I didn't let myself grieve Mrs. Brown’s passing as I tried not to think of it anymore.
I was planning on sharing about Mrs. Brown yesterday in church but was too emotional to form the words I wanted to say. So I wrote it down instead.
Mrs. Brown deeply touched my life and shaped who I am today. I first met her when I applied as a freshman to be on the yearbook staff for the following year. I was a little too candid about my weakness on the application and was sure that that would get me a big fat "no." But when she called me into her office she commended me for my honesty and said it was the reason she was offering me the only position on staff as a sophomore for the next year. The next three years on yearbook staff dramatically changed my life. It is where I discovered my passion for photography and design. Mrs. Brown recognized my passion and talent, encouraging it by promoting me to photography editor my junior year and then editor in chief my senior year.
Yearbook staff was much more than just a class. It was a family where I became friends with some amazing fellow students who helped me navigate high school and encouraged me in my faith–and all of that is because of the atmosphere Mrs. Brown fostered in her classroom. She always had treats for us and we ate copious amounts of Twizzlers, Cheese Puffs, and Pop Tarts; and while we did have work to get done in between mouthfuls of those treats, she enjoyed nothing more than taking time to talk with us about life. She had so much knowledge and wisdom to impart and I always looked back to her for counsel when it came to my decisions about academia and later, just life in general.
Mrs. Brown had so much heart and joy, and she exuded that in every situation. She loved to host students at her house and some of my favorite memories were the yearly yearbook brunches where she would make some of the most amazing food you had ever eaten in your entire life. We all used to joke that you were required to come wearing pants with some sort of elastic waist because that was the only way you would survive the day. Mrs. Brown is the one who gave me my only academic award in high school and the gift she gave me was a small book to journal in. While I’m not really one to journal, that book has become a meaningful place where I write down any and every quote that jumps out at me from the literature that I read.
I always thought I would have more time to spend with her and I greatly regret not making the time to see her the Christmas before she died. I know she is in a better place but this world truly lost one of the most joyful women I have ever known. Even as I look back over all these words I've written, I will never really be able to truly express how much she meant to me. I pray that throughout my life I can touch as many lives as she did; she is truly and deeply missed.
“For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee, by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia, alleluia!”
"For All the Saints" William Walsham How