Aunt Rosemary

It is difficult for us to express the depth of loss we all feel at the untimely death of Aunt Rosemary, or (a.k.a) to her students, “Mrs. Flynn.” No one feels that loss more deeply than her children, and her family.  A dear friend used the word “visceral” the other day. I thought about that word and I do believe that begins to scratch the surface.  For the rest of us – we lost a teacher, a role model, a friend and an aunt.  We are heartbroken.  We are angry.  We are confused.  We are lost.  And above, we are desperate for guidance.

For me it is simple: Aunt Rosemary took part of my soul with her when she left this world.  That wound will one day scar over, but I suspect it will never fully heal.  But that is mine and not anyone else’s.  I own it and will not burden others with. I write today, remotely not to wallow in a pit of selfish loss, but perhaps to help each of us move forward, including myself.

Aunt Rosemary believed in the good in people. She never gave up on anyone. No matter how difficult a situation might be, she ended up talking you through it and found ways of bringing out the best in others and making them part of the solution. She admitted to myself many of times that she was not perfect—no one is. She also told me that her flaws were simply part of who she was and not part of what she believed in.

Aunt Rosemary believed in goodness, strength, courage and perseverance. She believed in cultivating the smallest of seeds and then standing back and watching it flourish. And then she would push herself to grow more so the other person would continue to grow. That cycle never ended. It was especially true for me.

I will never forget, and will always remember the conversations that we had about teaching. I shared with her my experiences I had working in my classroom and she told me about her experiences as a teacher over her 36-year period. We both shared stories about our colleagues, students and parents we had – and funny stories that we would laugh about for hours. I believe that because of her, I am ready to be a teacher. I know what the profession expects and how to do my job like Aunt Rosemary: with class, handfuls of wit, and love.

With this it gets me to what Aunt Rosemary believed in, which was love and friendship, loyalty and devotion. She never turned her back on anyone. And Heaven forbid if you ever tried to pull away from her—she would yank on that rope so hard that you had no choice but to snap back, say you were sorry and “get back at it.”

Aunt Rosemary enjoyed nothing more than having the house with family, visitors and with her husband Jim (uncle Jim). The more the merrier until it seemed the house would burst. She loved lots of people doing great things. However, there was another side few saw: she cherished sitting in the stillness of her living room watching television and talking. She would lose herself in a television show while talking with people and find meaning in it for her every day life. I do not believe that was a conscious choice—I believe it “just happened.”

I had a very close relationship with aunt Rosemary. I loved calling her any chance I got just to simply talk. She told me one day, on her retirement day in 1996, a former student visited my aunt in her classroom in room 12. This student was now a mother of three aged in her mid-40s who came to bring my aunt flowers before she left school. While my aunt was crying, she said to my aunt that she taught her a three-pronged lesson.

It is this lesson that is perhaps the most important of all because it is the reason why I live and breathe each day:  “Mrs. Flynn, you taught us to love what we do, love each other, and love who we are with complete and total abandonment.”

And with that quote, I work every day trying to live that lesson. It is very hard, and will always be difficult. However, my aunt lived that lesson – and she did it well.

I could write for years telling stories from my days growing up, and she would be taking care of me, or any single day of our lives for where we spoke almost daily. However, those are for another time.  For now, we leave aunt Rosemary with this one thought, a quote she loved very much, that she told me we all should follow each day:

“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, passion.”

My classmates, colleagues and other education personnel can learn a lot from her. Believe me, I will be sharing a lot to you from her that I know she would want me to tell everyone.

Rest with uncle Jim, aunt Roe.  You did good for yourself.  I can not wait until I get to finally see you again and we can resume our conversations—because there is so much I have to tell you. I know for now, you are right by my side. You’ll always be the best teacher.

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And on that note, I would like to tell you a story that is fitting for this tribute. I was blogging a while back and titled one of my writings “Faith is found in odd places.” Surely, that lesson I told you is evident in this story I am about to share – whether or not you choose to believe in God or a higher power.

Now, what is interesting is that aunt Rosemary died Monday evening, and two evenings later, I was involved in a very bad car accident. Thankfully, it was not my fault but that is a minor detail. Both my car and the other driver’s car was totaled, and no one was injured. After the car hit mine – It swerved a 360 and before I crashed into a pole, I put my emergency brake on. It was at that point that I was able to exit my car safely, and that was when I realized that I had no injuries, pain, scratches or bruises. It was truly a miracle that I was perfectly fine. I wondered to myself: “How can this be?”

I truly thought I would be worse. However, turned out otherwise.

Then, that night after I got back to my dorm, I talked to a few friends and then I went to sleep to forget about what happened. However, what was interesting is that when I woke up the next morning, I noticed something strange.

Going back a little bit — Aunt Rosemary (before she passed) gave me a little calendar book of teaching quotes. Every day was a different quote. Mind you that I turn the page in the book every morning to a new quote. However, that morning was different because the page was already turned. My roommate was not in the room. The windows and shades were closed. No one was in my dorm for the rest of the night and same for the morning. I know I, and no one else turned the page.

How did the page turn by itself? As aunt Rosemary would say: “Drew, anytime you say something crazy, the even crazier people are the ones to call you crazy!”

It was then … that I realized that aunt Rosemary was protecting me. She turned the page. She saved me in the accident. And going back to what I wrote earlier, it is this that I encountered that makes moving forward after grieving totally worth it for me, because I know she is still here right next to me and I have nothing to worry about anymore.

I love you forever and always to the moon and back.

And, I am happy that you got to see me perform in the university band, like you always wished.

-Your grand-nephew, Drew