Fifteen months into my service as school board director I lost my wife of 50 years to cancer, now just nine months ago today. And at a school board director’s conference this weekend I lost again.
It is my hope that these two losses, added together, will equal a win for those who read what follows.
During a break in the conference schedule, I walked along the main street that had already been decorated for Christmas. Trees sparkled with bright white lights, life-sized drum-playing toy soldiers stood at attention all along the route, and occasionally even artificial snow would softly fall causing surprised shoppers to look skyward and smile.
And, as I watched, happy couples strolled along, hand-in-hand.
Alone, I returned to the conference.
There I ‘happened’ to sit with a fellow school board director I had just met and after sharing a bit about her family and hearing of the loss of my wife of 50 years, she exclaimed “David! You are sitting at Table 50!”
One of the breakout sessions I attended as school board director at the Washington State School Board Director Association Annual Conference was led by Dana Miles, State of Washington Teacher of the Year for 2023.
Dana is deaf and this is the first time a deaf teacher has been selected.
Ironically, half-way through Dana’s presentation, my hearing aids quit, evidently not having been fully charged.
This had never happened before and to happen at this very moment – in a session on what life can be like for students unable to hear and the impact that can have on their education, let alone their employment opportunities – was so very frustrating for me.
I could hear nothing more than a low murmuring.
I looked around and apparently Dana – communicating through sign with her audience and translated into speech by her translators, speech which suddenly I could not hear – had asked the audience to pair up and discuss something which of course I could not do.
So, I used the opportunity to walk down to the front and spoke to the two translators.
“You won’t be able to verbally respond to me,” I said to the translators, “as I won’t be able to hear you. Both my hearing aids have quit and now I am a victim of the very thing this session is about.”
The translators signed what I said to the instructor and she nodded with understanding and smiled sympathetically as I signed a thank you and waved goodbye.
As I made my way back to my truck where my bags were packed for the trip home, to search among my things for my hearing aid charger, I walked along the street already decorated for Christmas. Where trees sparkled with bright white lights; where life-sized drum-playing toy soldiers stood at attention; where artificial snow softly fell causing happy couples strolling along, hand-in-hand, to look skyward and smile.
And I too looked up and smiled having observed, once again, how special is that which we take for granted, and how very precious are those we have the opportunity to love and to serve.