Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life Stuff. Life Is About Love.

When I was 14, I used to think I would grow up to be a teacher. When my Mom came home from church one day, she said they were desperate for teachers for the Sunday school class on Sundays at my church where I went to grade school. My Mom was excited - she thought it would be a great way for me to get experience teaching and see if that's what I really wanted to do. I agreed but was reluctant they would take me on as I hadn't even started high school. I remember being so nervous when I went to Religious Education office for my interview. Mrs. Lucero greeted me with a warm smile and hug and we had a great conversation. We talked about anything and everything. I remember her saying that All Souls Church had never hired someone as young as I but she had faith I could lead and teach the kids. She thought I had a strong spirit and maturity about me - something I didn't see in myself at the time but was flattered nonetheless.

That first year teaching was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. The feeling of commitment, accomplishment, and pride I got from giving of my time was indescribable. Over the years, I graduated to teaching 4th, 5th and 6th grade. We did countless lessons, plays, field trips, service projects. 

I really threw myself into my work and it became a part of who I was. It just became something I did. 

I remember three years ago, Mrs. Lucero asked me to come into the office before classes were going to start. She asked if I would teach Confirmation class - the dreaded 8th grade. It's the hardest class to teach with the largest time commitment. They didn't have anyone teach more than a year or two that would want to come back. It was quite a tough job and undertaking as I understood it. She said they needed me. The kids needed someone that was young and had some fire left in them. I always felt that if she had the faith that I could do it, and do it well, then there must be a reason. It must mean I could - and I did.

I remember when Mrs. Lucero came into my classroom after I was done teaching one Tuesday night. We were alone and chatting about class and upcoming plans and then she shared with me that she was diagnosed with liver cancer and that she was going to start treatment. This was doubly hard for me because around the same time, my mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was undergoing chemo therapy treatments as well. I hugged Mrs. Lucero. She was strong and calmed me right away, telling me that she was going to be just fine and what I could do for her was continue my great work with my class. Her concern was for the kids but she felt ok going to treatment because she knew they were in good hands.

The last year I taught Confirmation, I did it for Mrs. Lucero. Due to her treatments and health, she wasn't there for a lot of my last year but she was still with me in my mind with every class. 

The last time I saw Mrs. Lucero was in May when my kids graduated. I was beaming with excitement. My kids graduated and as their teacher, I felt like a proud Mom. I baked them from scratch and we worked really hard. 

Mrs. Lucero was in the back of the cafeteria and I rushed up to her - so excited to see her. She started crying when I embraced her. She told me how thankful she was for me and as much as she did that, I kept telling her how thankful I was for her. She hired me as a wide eyed freshmen in high school 13 years ago and here I was - graduating my 3rd Confirmation class. I thanked her for having faith in me and always pushing me to move forward and never give up. After Mrs. Lucero left All Souls when she got too sick, things changed for me. It was still a great program but with new the changes, new people, and no Mrs. Lucero, I decided to put my teaching career on hold but I walked away a better person.

Mrs. Lucero never gave up. She always kept her faith, her positivity, and her easy way about understanding life. Often times she would write that she didn't understand why she had to go through certain things in life as she did but she never doubted why God put her through it. She always knew He had a plan for her. When Mrs. Lucero passed away, she took a piece of me with her. I've spent half my life with her, there is a void and more than anything, Mrs. Lucero was my friend and I loved her. 

Her friendship was a gift not only for me but the countless lives she touched and I will always miss her.

Mr. Lucero was Mrs. Lucero's biggest fan. He volunteered with her and even though she is gone, he still teaches at All Souls - a men's group on Sunday mornings. He always picked her up and dropped her off at Church everyday and they were married since high school - over 30 years. She was the first girl he ever dated.

It's been 10 months since her funeral. Yesterday, Mr. Lucero walked into my store. I haven't seen him since Mrs. Lucero's funeral in October though he's been in my thoughts constantly. We talked about life and what's been going on. I could tell that every word he said was gripping with emotion and even talking about his bride since high school was hard. He explained that their house is filled with things and he doesn't know what is worth money and what isn't. He doesn't know what he should donate back to the church or what to sell or how to sell it. He doesn't know what's old, new, silver, or antique or reproduction. He's finally in a place where he can start to go through her things but doesn't know where to start. The medical bills are overwhelming and this is something he needs to do.

He said he doesn't know anyone to do this that he can trust and asked if I could and that he would be glad to pay me whatever my appraisal fee is. 

Normally an assignment like this would pay my mortgage for the month but of course I told him that I'd be honored to help him - free of charge. He deserves my time. This is someone who has given back so much and he is a kind and gentle soul.  

I'm thankful for so many things. I'm thankful I can practice some Grace. I'm thankful that I have the gift I do in my industry to help him. My job is what he needs right now and I can provide him comfort in the best way I know how. I'm thankful he came to me. It's a delicate situation and the best thing he needs is someone who is close to the situation to help him through this hard part. He needs someone who understands what her things mean. Monetary worth and sentimental worth are totally different things when something was important to someone you loved. He needs someone that gets the gravity of her premature parting. 

Tuesday I will go to the house. That saying that life works in mysterious ways is so true. Who knew things would fall together like this. 

My most fulfilling experiences are ones I do just to do - not for attention or Facebook. I thought about keeping this one to myself but felt compelled to write. I love sharing life stuff. The stuff that sticks with us the rest of our lives - the fabric that binds us together as a humanity. Our experiences shape who we are and who we want to become. We are always evolving. It reminds me what life is about: life is about love. It's about who you love but more importantly, it's about how you love.


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