Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Timely Celebration of Life

I received a phone call on Friday, March 28, 2014 that you know will one day come but you never really think it's going to happen. My close friend and mentor, former principal at Courtland Paul Chambers passed away after a 5 year valiant struggle with ALS. He approached his diagnosis of ALS with such strength, bravery and humour, always making sure that his loved ones were going to be taken care of, and have memories of him. It was important to him that during his time left with us that he would take advantage of every moment. His home was filled with the most amazing circle of friends and family. As his mobility and health declined, he embraced his new normal, using his i-pad to communicate and somehow always make us laugh. An image I will always remember is the thumbs up sign he would give to let us know he agreed, or was doing ok.

While Paul was my Principal,  I learned something new everyday from him. How to listen when a parent is screaming on the other end of the phone, never letting the kids see you rattled, playing by his own rules, doing what works for the kids, supporting staff. He understood people. In watching Paul handle his ALS diagnosis, there is much to be learned for me as I begin my journey. As Paul had to adjust to the changes ALS would bring to his life, knowing that there would be moments in his children's lives down the road that he would inevitably miss. He made certain that they knew how he felt and he could be counted on for straight forward advice. I received an email from him on Tuesday this week and while he was shocked at my recent diagnosis. His large font email from the i-pad carried a message. You are strong, you have this, you will be ok. While I am regretful that my visit with him this weekend, did not take place. I take comfort in knowing that there was no doubt in his mind that he made a difference in my life, and the lives of so many.

His positive attitude and mindset that he could continue to persevere and defy the odds stacked against him place him once again in the role of my mentor. I will have considerable opportunity to reflect on the things I have learned and will continue to learn from Paul. I take comfort in knowing that he will continue to watch over me. It is my hope that he has made the realization that there is a wonderful place in heaven for him and that he has finally found peace without suffering.

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