Sunday, 26 June 2016
This girl had been making up stories since she was six and at age fifteen it was her favorite escape. You see, things weren't good at home and she liked to dream about the lives of girls who didn't hide in their rooms or pretend to be asleep to avoid being hurt. Of girls who were pretty and popular and didn't stay late at school or babysit every weekend just to stay away from home.
She read a lot, too. Of course, back then it was mostly Sweet Valley High or Cheerleaders books with a few Harlequins thrown in when she could sneak them. But most of all, she liked to write. She wanted to become a published author when she grew up, but she didn't know if she was good enough and she was afraid to let anyone read her work.
When she went into eleventh grade, she met the teacher-- an English teacher-- who would change her life. He was so encouraging to all of his students, every student loved him. He seemed to sense that the girl was hurting and she desperately wanted to reach out to him. She needed someone to believe in her and she thought he just might. And so she hatched a plan.
It was almost Halloween and he had decorated his classroom with pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons, and a stuffed bat. He didn't even notice that the bat was no longer hanging from the ceiling when he locked up that night. He only figured it out when he found a note stuffed under his door the next morning. It was a poem, set out like a ransom note using cut out letters from probably a hundred Seventeen magazines. And it demanded a treat for the class to ensure the bat's safe return. Weeks passed and he never figured out who the bat-napper was. Only after he had passed around a bag of trick or treat candies for the class to enjoy did she pull the bat from her book bag.
That day he told her that her poem was both creative and well written. Well written! She couldn't believe it! He asked if she like to write and she shyly confessed that she did. Months went on and he encouraged her to write more and more and to let him read what she wrote. In time he even convinced her to enter a contest where she won two first prizes.
Graduation was bitter sweet. She was excited to see what college would be like, but she was scared, too. Again, he encouraged her. He told her that he believed in her and that she would make a great writer, because she had a way with words. Through college, he continued to read her work and critique it until, slowly, she stopped writing. It wasn't that she didn't want to write, it was that college, her job, her family... it was all too much and she never seemed to find the time or energy to write. She also lost touch with her teacher. But she never forgot him.
Years later, after she had married, made a career for herself, and again taken to writing, she found him and made contact. Decades had passed, but he hadn't changed one bit. He was pleased to hear that she was still writing and he encouraged her to keep him updated about her progress. His last words to her were 'you always had such a special gift with words'.
Last Friday, the girl found out that he was gone. He had suddenly, unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind a legacy like no other. Not only did he touch the lives of all of his students and the many others who came to know him, he had turned a scared, hurting young girl with no confidence in her work into a strong, independent woman who continues to strive to be the writer he always believed she would be.
On June 22, 2016, the world lost a great light who will forever shine in my heart.
RIP Mr Clark