A lot can happen in a year. And by “a year” I mean a school year, September to June. Around this time last year, for example, I recall sitting in the main office of our school, talking and laughing with our school secretary, Joan. Joan, like me, was an avid gardener. We talked about the vegetables we would grow over the summer. We shared stories and giggled about the silly antics that the kids had gotten up to over the year. I told her that the next school year (2014-2015) would likely be my last at Jamieson Academy as I was moving to town to be closer to Shawn. I had worked with Joan for most of my 23 year career, and I knew I would miss her when I moved. Little did we know that in just one short year, everything would change.
If I had one word to describe Joan, it would be professional. Although the Principal is the one who gets the credit for running the ship (sorry Leo), it is really the school secretary who keeps a school running smoothly. She doles out the band aids and ice packs to hurt kids like a nurse. She deals with the irate parents and disgruntled teachers like a true diplomat. She is the only one who can fix a jammed photocopier and who knows that the paper goes face down on the fax machine but face up on the copier.
We all knew that Joan was sick last year, when she would have to leave her desk to take a rest on the couch in the staff room. However, we did not know that she was literally dying before our very eyes. Nor did she know that the bitch we call cancer was consuming her body and that June, 2014 would be the last time that she would wave the busses off as the super excited kids (and even more excited teachers) embarked on their summer holidays.
As a staff and as a school, Jamieson Academy was deeply saddened when Joan suddenly passed away in September, 2014. But life must go on, and through a chaotic period of trial and error, we found a lovely new school secretary. Things were back to normal by Christmas, and Joan, though missed, was becoming a memory.
By mid –school year, my own life took an unexpected turn when my relationship with Shawn started to fall apart. While I had been spending the school year getting my ducks in a row to make the move to town, I realized in February that Shawn was not on the same page. When the relationship finally ended in March, my body was engulfed with a heavy grief, and I wondered, “Will I ever find happiness again?”
However, it is hard to be sad when you are around nearly 400 energetic kids every day. There were just so many exciting things happening at the school! For one, we had gotten a huge grant to develop a school vegetable garden. The kids would wait with bated breaths when Miss Strang (me) would make an announcement, “Could the cabbage and the cauliflower group please go to the greenhouse.” One hundered kids growing twenty different types of vegetable plants makes for a fun year!
In June, our plants were ready to take up residence in the new school vegetable garden. I was calculating the space I would need to grow our abundant crops when suddenly I noticed a big, white fluffy feather on the ground at my feet. Well, those of you who know me, or who have read my book, will know that finding such a feather for me, is a sign of the presence of angels. And at that moment, I felt a peaceful, warm energy, as if the angels were actually surrounding me. Suddenly a thought (more like an inspiration) came to me: We would dedicate our vegetable garden to Joan! As a school, we had struggled to come up with a way to remember her, but when I shared my idea with the staff, they agreed that there could be no more fitting tribute than that. I was feeling quite pleased with myself while walking back to my office, and then I saw it. Another white feather right in front of my office door! What are the odds? In my 23 year career, I had never before found a feather at my workplace. I took that as another sign from the angels.
On June 15, the whole school came out to watch our dedication ceremony, and I was one of the participants to pay tribute to Joan. I told the story of finding the two feathers, which I held up for all to see, and how these signs show us that Joan is with the angels. Just as my speech finished, I watched in disbelief as another large white feather slowly floated from the sky and landed among the students. A little girl picked it up and brought it to me. I cried.
Some would call this coincidence. I believe that there is no such thing as coincidence and that these signs are heavenly messages that everything is unfolding according to God’s plan. It gives me great comfort to know that Joan’s spirit will be with our garden and that her beautiful voice is singing with the heavenly choir.
And as for me? My worry about never finding happiness was very short lived, as I eagerly anticipate a summer filled with adventure, romance, travel and passion……….but that’s another story for another time!
Enjoy your summer, mes amis!