Today I went to a memorial service for my dear friend, Pam. I won’t say that I said good-bye to her, because I didn’t. And I won’t. I don’t believe in good-byes.
I can only say, “I’ll see you later, Pam. I will. I promise.” I wish I had said the things to Pam that I’m about to tell you and if I’ve learned anything over the past two weeks it’s this: tell those you love that you love them while you have time. Pam’s brother delivered the message today and these are the very points he drove home as if he knew my thoughts. Never pass up the opportunity to tell someone that you appreciate them and more importantly, never pass up the opportunity to SHOW someone that you appreciate them. My mother used to say, “Give me my flowers while I’m still living.” I keep asking myself if I gave Pam her flowers while she was in her earthly form. It seems like that no matter how much time we have with a person, it is never enough.
The following is my tribute to Pam, one of the most authentic and unselfish people I have ever known. It has taken a week for the reality of her leaving this mortal realm to actually hit me. I suppose it all seemed like some sort of twisted dream up until this point, but I will not be hearing Jimmy Buffet on my cell phone and looking down to see Pam’s name anymore in this life. It’s the little things like that which make it all too real. I somehow believe that my sentiments are shared by many others, and that my thoughts will ring true with you.
I first met Pam when I was interviewed for a job in our school district, about 12 years ago. From the moment I met her, she was my friend. She believed in me and backed me, (along with another precious friend, Kim, whom I love dearly, even if I haven’t told her yet), before the site-base council that hired me. From day one of my internship, Pam made sure that I was a success. She was located right across the hall from me and we were both there until, 5, 6, 7 or 8 o’clock several nights a week that year. She mentored me and invited me to be a part of her world. We went places together. We did things together. She took me to KEA meetings and introduced me to people to help me in my career. It seemed to give her joy to see her interns become successful. For the next four years, she, Debbie and Gayle (the other wonderful members of our primary school “family”) really were my new family. I went to them with questions and probably drove them all insane in one way or another. I certainly came to love all of them.
In time, Pam and I were no longer across the hall from each other as she moved into the gifted and talented position and I was sent to teach music, then writing, then first grade, yet we continued to attend conferences together, were on site-base together, went to Mighty Dollar together and attended weekly yoga classes together. Pam brought me lemons from Florida and when I said I was going to write a book and I was sure that people would laugh at me, Pam and Debbie both encouraged me to “do it,” so I did. Pam read my works and recommended me to her friends. We had long talks in her car. A couple of times, I went on trips with her for the gifted and talented program. When my dad had a heart attack, Pam called a sub for me. I never even had to ask. She just did it. She was like that. She anticipated a person’s need and was there before the person even realized they had a need.
Pam believed in adventure and whenever I had a crazy idea, she encouraged me to go for it. She had a strong set of values and she never cared about impressing the “big wigs.” She cared about the kids in her classes and she cared about the young teachers under her charge. I was one of those. She cared about doing what was right and being fair. She cared about what was best for all and was a strong advocate of “best educational practice.”
I wish I could turn back the hands of time and tell Pam how much she meant to me, more importantly, I wish I could show her, but I can’t. All I can do is move from this moment forward and live a life that honors the things she deposited into my life. I can tell people that they matter to me. I can touch the lives of the children who come through my door, and like Pam, encourage them to work toward their dreams, to believe in them and never give up on them. I can encourage them to try new things, to explore, create and imagine. I can tell my co-workers that I value them, love them and consider them my friends. I can tell my Green River Arts family that I thank God for them coming into my life and that I consider them to really be “family.” I can tell my church family how much I love them and look forward to seeing them every Sunday morning, how much I LOVE singing praise and worship and that it brings me pleasure to see them happy and blessed, and most of all, I can tell my flesh and blood, family, the one I was born into, that they are the most precious people in the world to me.
The last time I saw Pam was in the hospital, but I’m not sure it was really her. The last words I spoke to her were “I love you and I’m sorry I didn’t eat lunch with you last week,” but I’m not sure she heard them, but then again, yes, I am, because I know the spirit hears even when the ears no longer can.
Pam saw the potential in others, the good in others and she worked tirelessly to help others see those things, too, and for that, I am eternally grateful.