Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Tribute

This morning I received the sad news that a former coworker of mine recently passed.  Although Mrs. Luby had been battling cancer for the past seven months, it still came as a huge shock.  Just about six weeks ago, I had taken the kids to visit her.  She did mention that this was the time she felt strongest - right before another round of chemo - but she also just seemed like her usual sweet and friendly self.

In the classroom, she had been one that I always looked up to in my profession.  She taught Pre-K and had the patience of a saint, an extremely creative mind, and a sincere love for children.  I think the little four year olds could sense her love for them and immediately felt at ease in their new school environment.  All of my kindergarten and first grade students who'd been in her class adored her.  I always loved to see the glimmer of excitement in her eye as she told me about her latest activity with the kids or the progress one of her students was making.  She was the teacher I hoped to be one day.

Wherever she went, she made a difference.  Our school is in a rough area, so she took the initiative every spring to get on her hands and knees to dig in the dirt and plant beautiful blooms that brightened up our school entrance.  Even though, year after year, the plants were inevitably trampled on and the flower buds picked, she persevered in this effort to bring beauty into an area that otherwise might have been dismissed as hopeless.

My son Jonathan loves people, but there is always a warm-up period when he meets someone new.  Not so with Mrs. Luby.  She came outside to meet us when we arrived at her house for a visit and offered to help bring things inside.  I asked if she wouldn't mind leading Jonathan up the steep steps to her house, temporarily forgetting about his shyness around new people.  Knowing her gentle personality, however, I should not have been surprised when he clasped her hand without hesitation or fear and walked up the steps with confidence.

Once inside, Jonathan quickly made himself at home, befriending their sweet dog, and playing with all of the toys that Mrs. Luby offered him.  I had been a little nervous about my kids making too much of a mess or making too much noise, but Mrs. Luby simply smiled and fondly commented that Jonathan reminded her so much of her dear grandson, who is around Jonathan's age.  She had a way of putting adults at ease, too.

In the few hours I spent chatting with her, I was so encouraged by her life stories and determination to live a full life.  She was sick, yes, but extremely hopeful.  She told me how she had spent her life teaching at all different levels, including the collegiate level, and had signed on at our school to teach Pre-K because she wanted to finish her teaching years working with the age group she enjoyed most.  This was supposed to have been her final year before retirement.

I was also challenged by Mrs. Luby's selflessness, even in sickness.  She served us homemade zucchini bread and, the following week, she sent me a thank you card for the flowers we had brought.  She proudly showed me a manila envelope full of homemade cards from a class of third graders in our school.  Many of them had been in her class for Pre-K and she marveled at their creativity and academic progress.  Even though she was still undergoing medical treatment, she shared with me plans to write individual replies to this group of third graders and collaborate with their teacher to provide cross-curricular writing prompts in the future letters they exchanged, so their teacher could also use the letters as grades.

It was unthinkable.

But I believe, for her, it was simply natural - to keep loving kids and looking for opportunities to do what she did best - teach.  There was no time to feel sorry for herself.

Today I asked Jonathan if he remembered Mrs. Luby.  He did.  I guess someone this special leaves a lasting mark on a 2.5 year old's memory.  He told me about her dog and the blocks he'd played with.  I showed him a picture I had taken of them and he remembered reading the book about dogs together.

I am so thankful to have known such a beautiful person as Mrs. Luby.  I am even more thankful for that precious morning in January in which she opened up her heart and home to me and my two babies.  I will always treasure her words of wisdom and the stories shared.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Luby.  We miss you... Heaven is so lucky to have you.


  1. A touching captured the essence of Michele. She missed but, yes, heaven is lucky to have her.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. So grateful to have known such a wonderful person!