Today, I Will Choose JOY.

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, we have so much for which to be thankful. If I tried to share the many things I am thankful for, the list would be exhaustive. I hope that is true for each member of the Walker community.

On the other hand, many of us are struggling with challenges, obstacles, or hardships. Some of those challenges are temporary, like a quiz, test, or job responsibility; some of the hardships are long-term, like an illness or the profound sense of loss of a loved one.

The Walker community has experienced a number of hardships in the last few weeks, as we mourn the loss of longtime Lower School art teacher Sherry Walker-Taylor. It is impossible not to feel her 35-year legacy every time you step foot in our Lower School with its hallways that are filled with artwork made by the hands of our first- through fifth-graders. Sherry, or “WT” as most of us knew her, inspired generations of Wolverines to both create and appreciate art; her daughter, Jessica Whittingham (‘02), follows in her footsteps as our wonderful Primary School art and science teacher.

As many of you know, our son’s first wife succumbed to kidney cancer two years ago this month. I am inspired every day by what our son shared with us on the day his wife died. Joseph and I were driving on a very dark road, in silence, to a family gathering when he turned to me and said, “Dad, I’m going to be okay.” Fighting back multiple emotions, I said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that.” And then he shared the most palpable example of “Choosing Joy,” that I have ever heard:

“You know how Perrin and I always said that we were going to choose joy in spite of the cancer,” he stated, “Well, last night, she told me that I could not let her death be something that caused me to live in sorrow. She made me promise that I was going to choose to live with joy.” And then he added, “I am going to honor that promise.”

Wow. I had to work hard to keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road. It was a moment I will never forget; a lesson from my children that transcends the ages. For all of us who have lost a loved one, it is a lesson that may help to navigate what comes next.

It has been said that life is a journey; one that is filled with great moments of exhilaration and other moments of loss, heartache, or sadness. As parents and educators, it is our job to recognize the truth in this and to model and teach our children to embrace the life-long pursuit of “choosing joy.”

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