Every new year brings with it renewed excitement, resolutions for change or improvement, and hope for the future. Additionally, the transition to a new year brings reflection, as we look back on lessons learned from the previous year. For me, recent life-lessons have been profound and impactful.
On the day after Thanksgiving, our son Joseph lost his wife Perrin after a six and one half-year battle with kidney cancer. And while there are memories that will be etched in my heart and mind forever, I have been touched by three significant lessons that are certainly worth sharing.
First and foremost, I will carry four words and a picture of Perrin with me that will inspire, sustain and support me in life’s difficult moments. For those of you who did not know Perrin, she maintained a level of joy in the face of adversity that was, and remains, inspirational. She summed this sense of joy by saying that the “shadows prove the sunshine.” I remember the first time I heard her say that; I stopped in my tracks. Perrin was determined not to let the shadow of cancer control her outlook on life. Rather, her life was lived to the fullest, with joy and in faith, in a way that allowed the light to dominate the shadows. How often the most simple truth, one often overlooked, offers a life-changing perspective.
Second, I opened a letter this past week from retired Walker teacher, Mrs. Dixie Bowden, for whom “Bowden Library” is named, who shared words of comfort for those of us enduring the shadows:
In a remote region of Tibet, the farewell that someone gives another is “May there be a road.” In that land where snow slides, rock slides, and cave-ins are abundant, in that land where roads are casually made and bridges are often hung from ropes, the wish – “May there be a road” takes on new significance. Surely we have highways, but metaphorically, life sometimes seems like Frost’s “pathless wood.” We move blindly at times, not knowing where to go next, but the love of God and of friends and family sustains us, shields us from the pain of mudslides and collapses, and comforts us in the loss of those we love.
Finally, it is, as Dixie notes, the love, support and comfort of friends and family that sustains us. Over and over during the past six years, even as recently as this week as we mourn the loss of longtime Walker employee Larry Alvin, I have seen the Walker community reach out and carry those who are hurting. It is, certainly, one of the most endearing attributes of the people connected to this school. Students, parents, faculty, staff, former faculty & staff, alumni, past parents, board members, everyone in this community cares about the well-being of each person. Indeed, it is through your individual acts of kindness, in a letter, card, hug, pat on the back, or with a listening ear that the axiom comes to life – the “shadows prove the sunshine.”
Shine on, Walker.