Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I am JUST a teacher

Recently, I caught myself saying that very statement when my husband and I were opening up junior savings accounts for our two offspring.  I hate hearing that and I even hate hearing myself utter those words.  

A few days later, a student of mine informed me that “teachers have it so easy, all you have to do is grade.” 

“All I do…is GRADE?” I asked.

“AND you get winter break and summer’s off too!  You have it so easy!” 

Maybe it was the lack of sleep from my 8 month old teething.  Or maybe it was the fact that I have been so busy with trying to be a good mom, a good wife AND a good teacher that I was placing my own personal needs (i.e. jogging) on the back burner.  Whatever the reason, I literally ran through the gamut of emotions.  I was stunned at first, because this kid was a sophomore and I was shocked at the audacity.  I then was angry.  Angry because his statement clearly didn’t stem from his own observations and it more than likely, probably originated from his parents.  Then I was livid.  Livid that because of all the things I do throughout a day, a week, a year mean nothing because the public perceives me as my profession and apparently, grading is the extent of what I accomplish.

My initial reactions used to be rage, but now I matter-of-factly comment, "If you think we get paid so much to do this piece-of-cake job, why aren't you a teacher?"  

Being “just” anything needs to be eliminated from our lexicon.  Completely.

Being “just” a secretary or just a teacher or just a firefighter degrades not only the profession, but the people who are dedicated to being those things.

I am more than just a teacher.  I am a counselor, a mentor, a researcher, a leader, a copy repair woman, a coach, a collaborator, a multi-tasker and an advocate for children.  We have the patience of saints most days and bladders made of steel because we are not permitted to leave children unsupervised in our classrooms.  We are excellent at wolfing down lunch in the 30 minutes we are allotted while responding to parent emails or grading lab reports.  We assist kids with discovering what it is they want to do with their lives and where they can do to make it happen.  We are shoulders to cry on when break ups happen, when their parents lose their jobs and when reality falls short of their dreams.  We are social workers who purchase classroom supplies and clothes with our own money for kids who are homeless (true story).  

 We are not just workers within a building, we make the school a school and an institution of higher learning.  And we are not as dumb as some might think, as the majority of teachers I work with have masters degrees and accreditations beyond.  We are experts in our craft, managing classrooms of up to 30 teenagers, engaging them in thoughtful discussions and showing them where to find the right answers without telling them.  I dare those who believe our jobs to be easy to walk into a classroom full of hormonal teens, eager to test you on your content knowledge, all the while texting on their phones and thinking more about the weekend than the phases of mitotic division.  Taxpayers send us their most prized possessions during the day, entrusting us with exposing their children to information and knowledge no one else has.  It’s an interesting notion to consider that we “just” teachers spend more time with your children than you do.  

Yet, we are “just” teachers and all we do is grade.

I do not expect others to fully comprehend what it takes to do my job, but I do expect others not to be so judgmental and assume that a particular job is simpler than another.  I do not assume being an electrician is easy.  Or a lawyer.  Or a car salesman.  I’m positive there are layers upon layers of responsibilities those professions have that I am unaware of.  

My colleagues and I work very hard at what we do, yet I am constantly reminded that the public rarely has a clue as to what our days entail.  I’ve read that teachers, on average, work 9 to 14 hours a day, so by the time winter break rolls around, we have actually accrued enough time to justify our summer vacation.  We chose to be teachers – it wasn’t like we couldn’t cut it in molecular genetics or sociology or economics.  The majority of us actually enjoyed those courses and that’s what propelled us into this profession: to share our enthusiasm for learning with others. 

It is interesting to note that I actually was accepted into a nursing graduate program and a masters education program the same year at Ohio State and I had to make the decision of which profession to pursue. 

Teaching was not my plan B.  It was my first choice.

We are not just teachers.  We love what we do and we chose this profession knowing full well that we would not be millionaires.  We enjoy the challenges that are thrown at us every day and we celebrate the successes and milestones with our students.  We enjoy the breaks and vacations just as much as our students do because it gives us time to recharge our batteries and regroup before we get to start all over again with a new batch of kids.  I always joke with my students that vacations are for the teachers, not the kids, because I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted by the time June arrives.  And that’s because we work hard at what we do – we take this profession seriously.  And it’s about time the public took us and our profession seriously too.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Path to Healing for Organ Donor Families

My mom asked me, no scratch that, INFORMED me a few weeks ago that I would be speaking with her at a Lifeline of Ohio (Donate Life) event held at the Ohio State University student union.  I was less than enthusiastic, as I am deathly afraid of public speaking.  Seriously.  I am not a fan.

Regardless, I agreed to it because for starters it was with Donate Life and second because my own mother asked me to.  So I had a close friend who I have a tremendous amount of respect for if she would help me by proof reading my speech.  She (thankfully) was able to squeeze it into her busy schedule and here is the outcome:

"Hello.  I am elated you could be here today.  And getting “here” wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination and I suspect it was a little more difficult than you realize.  In fact, in order for you to be here today, you had to be the beneficiary of an extraordinary string of luck or fate.  It’s interesting to note that in this kind of journey that has brought us all together, even though we may begin at different times and different places, our paths cross so that we may share our compassion, love, and appreciation in this excursion we call “life”. 

My personal journey with organ donation began the day I decided to register as an organ donor when I turned 16 and received my driver’s license.  At that point, I was just a junior in high school, who hoped to one day play volleyball in college and become a veterinarian.  I loved science, biology specifically, and it just seemed selfish and, more importantly, wasteful, to not donate my organs if anything were ever to happen to me.  From my point of view, I felt that if I passed away, and wherever I would be going, I wasn’t going to be able to take my organs with me. 

As all 16 yr olds are, I was unaware that I had committed to something that would later impact my life, my parents’ lives and the individuals who received the gift of life from my only sibling.  It was February 2004, and I distinctly remember sitting at my mother’s feet on the blue-grey carpet of the hospital waiting room as her friends comforted her on both sides, while anxiously anticipating my brother’s prognosis at St Ann’s.  I remember how I suddenly became keenly aware of how my eyelids felt when I blinked as I stared up at my mom, hoping…hoping more than anything, that this was all just a bad dream.  She asked me, in a shaky voice, if she and my father should sign the organ donation papers.  I said, “Yes.  We have to give someone else a chance if we aren’t given one ourselves.”  Please do not misunderstand her hesitation, as I knew that she was going to sign those papers anyway, but by asking for my opinion, it was as if she was delaying the acknowledgement of the harsh reality that Paul might not be coming home with us.

Fortunately, for our family, my brother’s liver recipient reached out to us.  Joseph became like a  relative to my family.  Words cannot even begin to describe how my parents enjoyed reading his correspondence.  The letters he sent showed signs of being opened and folded a multitude of times, and I am sure it was because it provided my parents with evidence.  Evidence that the decision they made was the right one.  Confirmation that Paul’s gift was significant and meaningful.  Proof that Paul’s selfless decision was life changing to others.  Verification that Paul was still impacting others long after he had been gone.  

I am not sure if recipients realize the power and impact they have on donor families.  Psychologist William James said that “The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated.”  And I believe that this is true.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, we all want and need to feel valued for who we are, and we need to be recognized for our contributions and accomplishments. Therefore, it’s important for us to know that we have made a difference in someone’s life.  And I’m not just saying this because I come from a long line of teachers, as we are known to be an altruistic and giving group of people.  I’m telling you this because this is true for all mankind.  If a person takes the time to express their heart-felt appreciation for something we have done, it boosts our spirit, passion, and purpose.  It builds our self-confidence, self-esteem and our entire self-image. It gives us energy and motivation to continue on.

And trust me, there were times in dealing with the loss of my brother, when simply continuing on was a struggle.

As recipients, you have the ability to help a donor family feel significant and to realize that their loved one gave a gift that continues to live on long after they are gone.  As a recipient, you have the chance to help a donor family feel appreciated and valued.  In other words, you have the potential to help others see light when they are surrounded by darkness.

Most importantly, you have the opportunity to help a donor family heal.  Your communication and the acknowledgement of their decision to donate is a vital component of the healing process.   

Whatever pleasure each of us derives from our existence in the cosmos, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter — that we contribute unique value to the present and the people we share our lives with.  For some, the simple act of recognition is sufficient enough.  So as difficult as it may be for you as a recipient to reach out to donor families, dig deep and try your best to establish a connection.  Donor families need to hear from you because they want reassurance that the people their son/daughter/mother/father/brother/sister helped with the gift of life, is living a full life, complete with love, and dreams, and goals and first time experiences.  We want to hear about how our loved one’s selfless gift allowed you to graduate from college, to get married to the one you love, to have children who you will watch grow.  We want to hear about how your life has changed for the better, because, at least then, then—there is some good that came out of our loss.

You have been chosen, by fate or providence, or whatever you wish to call it and, as far as we can tell, to be living in the greatest time period of modern medicine.  Organ donation isn’t just something that we do, it’s something that we all become.  We are all members of an elite club of support and hope that we will forever be a part.   So I leave you today with one request: acknowledge what others have done for you to be here today, because as we all know too well, life can change in an instant and today may be all that you have. 

Thank you for your valuable time and attention, and I wish everyone the best of luck as you continue on your journey of success, memories, and life long friendships."

After croaking my way through the words I had toiled over, wiping my nose and my eyes a multitude of times, I turned and walked with my mother off of the stage.  The CEO of Lifeline hugged me and said, "Turn and look.  You've got a standing ovation."  Sure enough, 700 people were standing up, applauding my mother's and I's message.  It was overwhelming.

Later, we received a text from one of the Lifeline big-wigs, congratulating us on our message and acknowledging that they had LOTS of  recipients approach them with requests on how to contact their donor families.  A certain man in particular had received his heart 22 yrs ago, and although embarrassed it had taken this long, he had decided it was time to express his gratitude.

That text message alone made it all worth it for me.

Friday, May 24, 2013

All teachers are not created equal

I am sure that many of you have viewed the cell phone footage of Jeff Bliss, a sophomore student who lectures his social studies teacher about how to teach while being kicked out of the classroom.  Most of my students have seen it.  I’ve seen it.  I saw it when it first was posted on a social networking site a recently, and then I felt compelled to watch it again today.  

And here’s the interesting part: my reaction the 2nd time around was much different.
Upon the first viewing, I agreed with the young man who felt so frustrated with his learning experience.  We all have had teachers who seem to just provide us with packets and busy work, who rarely get out of their chairs and who seem to just show up at 7AM to leave by 3PM every day.  A teacher who does the bare minimum and simply does what the state standards requires.  Nothing more.  I felt sorry for the kids, to have that scenario be their experience when history is such a fascinating and valuable subject.  I am sure there are many Jeff Bliss’s out there in the world, who are disappointed with how they are being forced to learn.    

On top of that, I felt sorry for the teacher.  I felt like I wanted to reach out to her, to ask her to try and remember why she entered the profession in the first place.  I wanted to ask her to find that passion that she may have once had for learning.  For teaching.  For the subject.  For the kids.  I felt as though she was created; She may have been strapped with too many high stakes tests that require her to “get through” enough content that might appear on a state standardized test, therefore not feeling able to dedicate sufficient time to project based instruction.  I honestly can attest that I do not know one single person who has decided to enter this profession because they want an “easy” job; to sit up at their desk while the students essentially teach themselves with packets (with the original worksheet being from 15+ years ago).  

And then something happened yesterday that caused me to go back and watch the viral video.  I overheard a few of my sophomore students joke about how they left midway through a school assembly the day prior.  On Wednesday, our history department worked tirelessly to bring Vietnam veterans into our school before Memorial Day, to share their experiences and display artifacts from their service with our kids.  The sophomores miss every single one of their classes from 2nd period to 12th period that day; it’s dedicated to students learning from these living historians who are sharing their stories that will not appear in textbooks.  Did I mention that the guest speakers, veterans, have to use a sick day or call off of work (ie – lose a day’s pay) to be here for the presentation? 
So needless to say, it’s quite an undertaking to coordinate this event.  After the morning session, students were led out to the commons for lunch.  And that's where the disappointing decision making happened.  From some accounts, at least half of the sophomore student body left.  They left school grounds, to go to a friend’s house to swim in the pool, and skipped the second session of the presentation.  According to some, it was wildly obvious how many students had flown the coop when the second session started and half of the auditorium was empty.

When my kids came in to my class that morning and I overheard them talking about how some of their classmates had chosen to leave, I did my best to contain myself.  How dare they.  How dare they disrespect our country’s soldier’s who have survived warfare.  How dare they disrespect the teacher’s who worked tirelessly to coordinate this event.  I highly doubt those individuals who took time out of their lives to share their experiences overseas will ever wish to return.  Their behavior makes not only their entire school look bad to the community, but I fear they tarnished the reputation of teens everywhere.  

So when I was in the right state of mind, I told those kids how I was disappointed in them.  I informed them that they are in charge of their own educational experience, and if they felt they had the right to leave an event like yesterday, then they needed to be aware of the message they were sending.  The message that I receive as a teacher from them the students is that they didn’t want to be taught with people who have experienced the events they study in their textbooks, that this unique opportunity was not valued and we can’t trust them to make good decisions.  I recalled saying, “So you didn’t WANT to be there?  Guess what, YOU and your poor decisions are exactly why teachers resort to making packets and letting you sit in your seats for the entire class period.  Forget having freedom to direct your own learning – you just demonstrated that you can’t handle that.  Congratulations.  You are to blame for good teachers like Mr J to question whether he should do anything like this ever again.”

That’s why I went back to the Jeff Bliss recording.  Because that teacher may have not only been shaped by state mandated testing, but she could have also been shaped years and years of kids being disrespectful and lazy and unmotivated and uncreative. She may have been held back from projects and experiences like our Veteran’s assembly because the administration was worried that kids might do exactly what they did here.  She may have had too many experiences with students that have caused her to lose her ambition to try something new.  All teachers, regardless of how seasoned they may be, will try new things in the classroom and sometimes, the end product is amazing. 
And sometimes, it blows up in your face.  You go home, lick your wounds, reflect on what went wrong and see if you can figure out how to make it right.  It might take a few years to try it again, but most teachers do.  They take that risk because that’s what it takes to touch kids’ hearts.

So here’s what I beg teachers like her, teachers who feel that what they do does not make a difference, teachers who have lost that excitement for teaching.  Please don’t give up.  Please do not stop being passionate and curious.  What I love about my job is that I get to be the first person to introduce students to new concepts and ideas that they have never heard of before.  Now more than ever, we need teachers to get back to that thinking.  We need to remember what it’s like taking kids from not knowing to knowing, from not understanding to understanding.  Keep trying.  The next year’s class might be better!  Or they might be worse, but you won’t know until you give them a shot.  They are just kids, anyway.  They make mistakes (hopefully) a lot more often than we do.  And in my mind, a mistake is an learning opportunity – failure is not the end, it’s the beginning of the lesson.

For the record, I had numerous students approach me to tell me that the Veteran's assembly was so interesting and they wished they could do things like this more often.   So Mr J, you may not have been able to reach the entire sophomore body, but you still sparked the interest and curiosity in some.  Those are the kids you need to remember.  Those are the kids who value what you do.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Coaching is an act of love

This year marked the end of my short lived coaching career.  I had coached volleyball for 13 yrs, ranging from 8th grade teams all the way to head coaching varsity.  I resigned at the end of the season, as I was expecting my 2nd child and because I just felt like I didn't like where the "job" was headed.

Let me be completely honest, I love the sport of volleyball.  I think it is a fantastic sport for young ladies to learn about teamwork, goal setting and dedication.  I enjoy the strategies that can be employed to obtain wins and I love the off season weight room workouts.  I love spending time with the coaching staff as we are all close friends.  I love learning new plays and creating new drills (or researching for other ones) to utilize in practice.  I love the excitement before our first match.  I love the team building activities that we used for our girls, like kayaking, as they were literally taken out of their element and forced to work with other girls they may not know very well.  I loved it. 

What I didn't love, was the amount of time I was spending away from my family.  I missed my first born's first steps, I missed putting her to bed and reading her books at night.  I missed family dinners and having in depth conversations with my husband about school/learning/politics/ANYTHING.

On top of that, I did not particularly enjoy, was the unrealistic expectations from not the student athletes, but their parents.  I was spending more time with other people's kids than my own family.

I get it.  Parents want the best for the kids.  And they should have high expectations of their daughters as well as their daughter's coaches.  As a coach, I too have expectations for the girls as well as for myself.  I took my coaching career very seriously.  I felt that because I was the head coach and because I was the one who developed the carefully scripted practice plans, that I was the one who needed to watch film and complete stats.  I was the one who turned in the line up so I needed to be the one who analyzed the data.  I also needed to be present at every off season workout, because the kids work harder when they know the coach is watching.  I also needed to run fundraisers and a little kids camp, because there was equipment we needed to purchase for the program, and I was raised to work for my money, not expect a handout. 

Because of those self imposed expectations, I was working like a dog.  For less than $2/hr.  How many people do you know who would ride home on a bus only to get home by 11pm to eat leftovers or drive thru fast food only to plop down and watch that night's film so they could work on practice plans for the next day?  How many of you could stand to hear your 3 yr old daughter cry on the weekends when you had to leave for a tournament, as she wailed, "No mommy!  No more volleyball!"  My husband couldn't even attend matches this past season because our daughter would see me and attempt to run across the court since you were rarely seen at home much.

Oh yeah, and did I mention how the parents will scrutinize every substitution you make (or didn't make), question every bit of your coaching philosophy and expect you to make their child a superstar?  They would go to the athletic director and complain that you might not be "intense" enough or make statements like you "do not play to win".  As an added bonus, when you sit down with the athletic director at the end of the season to have your season review, you are told that you are patient to a fault and need to be more intense when the officials make a bad call.

Reminder: You get paid $2/hr.

Here's the thing that might surprise some of you.  Coaching is not about the money; it's about the kids.  It's about teaching them that hard work does pay off.  It's about learning how to fall, time and time again, only to get back up and work harder the next time.  It's about sweat and tears, collateral that you pay in the weight room because you want to jump higher, hit harder and be injury free for the season.  It's about teaching the girls the art of the game, how to love it and work hard while having fun.  It is about winning, but at what cost?  Many retired coaches and military generals will tell you that if you get people to respect you, to believe in you, they will do just about anything for/with you.

It's not about getting your daughter a college scholarship.  Because here's the thing, parents would tell me that they "are hoping for college scholarship" but when you would talk to the student athlete, she would confide in you that she doesn't want to play in college.  So not only are the parents trying to live vicariously through their kids, they aren't even communicating with them.  The scholarship offers and the college letters are more of a badge of honor to these parents - bragging rights, if you will.  Don't worry about how your daughter might fit into the college coach's coaching philosophy, it's about the money they saved you.  It has gotten so ridiculous that a head coach of a large university here in central Ohio told us that he received a letter from an interested athlete who was 7 yrs old (Her father had penned the 2 page letter, claiming she was going to become something great!).  Who is to say that this coach will even be coaching at the same institution 10 yrs from now?  Or that the child will even want to play volleyball when she's in high school? 

It's not about implementing a year round program because that's what the parents want.  It's not about breaking Ohio High School rules to have more contact time than what is permitted.  I love that because other coaches break rules (either coaching other sports or coaching at other schools), now we are expected to do the same, in order to be competitive within our conference.  I understand that policing every sport at every high school is next to impossible, but I was taught that rules are rules.    

The girls don't need a year round program because the majority of them already participate in USA volleyball/Jr Olympics during the off season (from December until June).  Some of the kids even play another sport besides volleyball (gasp!) and some, believe it or not, have jobs outside of school, not to mention they are also taking AP courses and are involved in National Honor Society/DECA/yearbook.  Kids need time to be kids, and this year round expectation is not only contributing to our children to being good at one single thing (whatever happened to being multifaceted?), but now we are seeing an abundance of overuse injuries in the shoulders and knees.  I discovered that I was a rarity when it comes to my coaching philosophy because I wanted my girls to play other sports.  By playing basketball or softball or running track, the girls were staying active but using other muscles that they didn't utilize while playing volleyball.  It prevented injuries.

I also find it absurd that coaches are expected to go ape shit when an official makes a bad call.  The thing is, I have been up on the official's stand for 6 yrs, so I know what it's like up there.  Referee's cannot see everything and not once have I ever changed a call simply because a coach was berating me.  Besides, what example does that set for my girls?  And if I do go bananas over a call, I distract my girls from doing the job I have trained them to do.  They need to feel in control of their own match, and shouldn't feel that what they are doing doesn't matter because the official will call in the other team's favor.

I didn't coach to be respected by parents.  I didn't coach to be liked by kids.  I certainly didn't coach because of the illustrious salary.  I coached because I am a teacher at heart, and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge, passion and experience with student athletes in a sport that I hold very dear.

I am sad to have ended my career, because it definitely didn't end the way I had planned or expected it to.  But I needed to start listening to my own advice: family comes first.  No amount of minimal salary can replace seeing my kids' first steps or having my daughter wrap her arms around my neck and say, "I love you, Mommy.  No more volleyball." 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear Paul...

Dear Paul,

It's been a long time since we last spoke, since I saw you last.  Has it really been 9 years?  I remember February 21st and February 22nd, 2004 like it was yesterday; it surely doesn't feel like it's been almost a decade since I woke up on a Saturday morning to an empty house and the phone ringing.  I went to work that chilly morning, completely unaware of how our lives were going to be forever changed.  I will never forget the sound of Dad sobbing on the phone when I called him back, as he was at the hospital with you.  I will never forget how many people were crammed into that waiting room at St Ann's hospital and stayed with my parents all through the night.  And I will surely never forget how you woke me up at 4:42 am on Sunday, the 22nd, to tell me it was time for you to go.

I used to dream about you, but it's been awhile.  The first time I saw you in my dreams, I was standing at the end of the hall and you stepped out of your bedroom doorway, looking just like a typical 21 yr old should.  You were shirtless (as usual) and you flashed one of your signature smiles before I was startled awake.  I was so surprised to have seen you, that I woke myself up.

The next time I saw you, it was almost a year later.  Mom, Dad, Eric and I were sitting in church, at Central College Presbyterian Church (where Mom & Dad were married, where you and I were baptized, where Jason and I were married and where you were laid to rest) and we were all standing, singing a hymn.  Eric leaned over,  smiled and pointed to a few pews in front of us.  And there you were.  Singing along, with a book in your hand.  You turned your head, and smiled at us.

Again, I immediately woke up.

When I moved to Florida, I used to smell you in my car, even though you never rode in it.  In the mornings, in my apartment, there was a touch lamp that would always be on when I woke up.  Sometimes, it felt like Groundhog Day, where a certain song that reminded me of you would always be on when my alarm clock would go off or would come on the radio on my way to school.  I could feel you in the room.

You don't visit me anymore.

I like to think that it's because you have been reborn, to another place, another time.  You used to answer when I asked for your presence.  I could always count on you to be there when I was upset or scared.   We used to talk and I could hear your voice inside my own head.

I like to think that you're not "here" anymore because you know we're ok.  Because you know we miss you terribly, but we are not overwhelmed with sorrow or grief.  I know you were worried mostly about Mom, as you had every inkling to be.

Mom and Dad are doing ok.  I ask them all of the time how they are feeling, and they say "fine".  But you and I know that everything is not fine.  They lost their only son, to a senseless accident that shouldn't have happened.  You can tell when they are thinking about you.  Your friends still visit your grave and still post things on social media in remembrance.  You are surely missed, but not forgotten, Paul.

The first year you were gone, felt like a dream, like we were stuck in limbo or stuck in shock.  Nothing felt "real".  I would find myself trying to bargain and deal your life back; I would think that sometime soon I would wake up from this nightmare and everything would go back to being the way it used to be.  The second year was the toughest because reality set in.  We realized that you weren't coming back and the evidence was in the lives you saved through your generous and selfless gift of life.  One of the recipients was so moved by your donation, that he and his wife named their first child after you.  Because had it not been for you, he and his son, would never have existed.

An awful lot has happened since you left.  Jason and I bought the house you and I grew up in, and our children are growing up in the rooms you and I once called our own.  Juliette loves horses (go figure) and Price was just born 5 weeks ago.  They certainly have not replaced you, but they have definitely made it easier on all of us, sort of like welcomed distractions and another generation to love and spoil.  We've been remodeling the old Price homestead to make it more of our own home, but it still has the memories preserved in its foundation.  If you're able, you should stop by sometime to check it out.  Uncle Bean has been hard at work, updating almost every room in the house.  Remember when you kicked the hole in the wall in the front room?  Or when you and Eric chased each other in a water fight on the roof?

If there's one important lesson that I have learned from all of this, and it's that time doesn't heal all wounds - you just learn to live with the pain.  Every year you've been gone, it hasn't necessarily gotten easier.  The pain just becomes that less sharp and consuming.  Don't get me wrong, we still shed tears when we relive memories or wonder what you'd be doing if you were here with us today.

I know you'll never read this or fully understand the weight my words carry, but I can't help hoping that you might.  That you might be hovering over my shoulder as I type this to you.  That you might hear the words in my head.  That you might, just might, visit us again. 

Maybe I'll see you in another life, brother.

With love,