THE BLOG
01/28/2016 03:24 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2017

What Death Does to Perfect Our Vision

A woman who never married and never had children and whom many would consider elderly died this month. She had a huge heart, a business-woman's mind, and a love/hate relationship with Chicago's sports teams. She had fought cancer for years. At the end, she was probably only seventy-five pounds. Her life and death shout a message to me, even though her voice in the last days of her life was as tiny as a whispery breeze: "Live deeply, love well, and never stop making a difference."
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Another woman, this one married with four children and middle-aged, also died this month. She lived with a deep faith and a missionary's heart. Her reach was enormous, particularly to college students who sought hope and direction. Her seven-year battle against cancer finally ended. Her life and death shout a message to me, even though I never met her: "Live deeply, love well, and never stop making a difference."
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A six-year-old boy, the son of my dear friend Melody Arabo, the 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year, also died this month. http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/local-news/82872129-storyCancer did not take him...complications from the flu did. He was spunky and vibrant, a lover of the color blue and an identical twin to a brother who survived his encounter with the same flu virus. No one suspected that his life would be so short, but the love stirred up for his family in response to his loss is stunning. His life and death shout a message to me, even though I also never met him: "Live deeply, love well, and never stop making a difference."
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For a month when beginnings are usually the focus, this January has been hard. We also lost the 1996 National Teacher of the Year, http://www.dglobe.com/news/3932730-blegen-former-national-teacher-year-dies
a heroic principal who saved her students from a renegade bus, http://www.wthr.com/story/31061541/children-injured-in-lawrence-school-bus-crash and several music icons who shaped our collective melodies and rhythms for years. What do these losses say to my teacher's heart? "Live deeply, love well, and never stop making a difference."
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You see, the elderly lady, who was my best friend, was once a student in someone's classroom. The mother with passionate convictions was once a student as well. Melody's little boy was an actual student now, a kindergartener. Every individual, good or bad, slips in and out of classrooms at some point in his or her development, and educators put their handprints upon each individual. It seems to me that when we get so caught up in standards, testing, and academic rigor, we forget that when the moment comes to face the end of our time on this earth ...for each of our students and for each of us...what matters is living, loving, and making a difference. If we teach with that as the center of our educational philosophy, and if we live with that as the center of our existence, we might just get close to living lives as meaningful and beloved as those who left us in January.