When I awoke that morning, the sparrows were singing outside my window, warbling happily to each other and the green world of the Spruce Tree they inhabited. Their tiny claws caught on dangling leaf branches, they bounced up and down as the crisp, January breeze coasted in and out of the web work of leaves hiding the trunk from my view.
I sat on the edge of my bed watching their play a long time. It always made me feel better about myself and the world I had to face each day when I did that. I didn't have to think about going back to that school, where the children pretended to be grownups, and acted like scoundrels and parents ran away from their parental duties to get lost in their personal problems.
Being an educator wasn't what I thought it would be. It had turned into a nightmare for me, for many of my fellow educators as well. We were policed by Federal laws, state laws, county laws, school district laws, administrator laws and by parents. Our ability to teach what we knew and do it best was hobbled by a thousand and one politically correct laws and inhibitions that had nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of what we did for a living or what the kids really needed. Our nation had become obsessed with facts and figures and self importance and forgotten the heart of learning....love of knowledge for its own sake. We had become cogs on a great wheel of indifference and corporate commerciality.
At that moment I thought it was going to be a very dark day. A very dark day indeed.
But perseverance is my middle name and I get up each morning, Monday through Friday, and cast myself back into the lagoons of education like a sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered again by all the restrictions and inattentions of the students and the laws.
I wondered sometimes if there was true justice in the world, that so few could make it so hard for so many, but just reading the headlines of the newspapers, or watching the national news and seeing how just a few percent of the world owned over ninety percent of it, it was no wonder that teachers were bottom-runged for extinction. As were many other professions.
Scientists were complaining about climate changes, but they had ignored one very stern, but cruel reality that life had its own way and mind about doing things. Humans could change everything but the way they looked at the world. Most people didn't change much from about two years old according to research and I believed it.
Try teaching a thirteen year old child something new he doesn't want to learn. It's not just difficult, it's pretty much impossible. Yeah. You can get them to memorize the numbers and facts, but do they use it? Not really. It's games and fantasy they're after these days. You go through a door ahead of them and hold it for the next child to exit, and they will all come through, not one of them taking the door from you so you don't have to stand there like an idiot.
Maybe I'm bitter, or maybe I'm wise. Point of view matters.
But that morning I was honey and light, the birdies singing sweet songs outside and making my life a better place to be for a time. Why couldn't people be more like that? Why do we have to spend so much time criticizing, complaining and trying to control each other, rather than helping, assisting, nurturing and being kind?
Thoughts were like swift arrows through my mind that morning. Thoughts about light. Thoughts about darkness.
Would I be thinking all those thoughts if I had grown up to be an astronaut? Or would I be sitting in some high tech laboratory pondering why people didn't pour more money into pure research, want to explore, want to take advantage of the knowledge exploration brings?
Seems endemic of humans to want more than they will ever have, even if they already have more than the majority will ever have.
I'm almost eight years old now. And I suspect that soon I will get up, but not go anywhere, instead I will take one last breath, then clasp hands over my chest and sprout lilies as I expire into the Great Unknown.
I'm not afraid of dying so much, as not knowing what comes next? I suppose that's no different for anyone else either. No one really knows for sure what comes next. How could they without actually having been there and come back? And yet there were kids in India who remembered being alive before and could even point out where they died, and who their parents had been.
Do I believe that?
Just as much as I do in angels with wings. Both are possible, and both might be grasping at straws to make sense out a life much bigger than we were.
I stood up to look more out my window. Funny, but I didn't feel any wind, even though it was blowing the leaves and sparrows up and down in a shaking medley of colors and movement. I pulled my head back in and turned around, then I froze.
Laying on my bed was this strange person that looked like me. Their face was frozen in a look I couldn't explain. I was trembling at that moment. I wasn't sure what to do. How could someone have snuck into my bed without my noticing it?
I walked closer to the bed to peer at the body more intimately, but as I did so, I got this strange feeling. How come I couldn't feel my feet on the carpet?
I looked down and my feet were not touching the carpet.
That set off a chain reaction of both trembling and fear. And yet, even in the midst of the turmoil I felt at that moment, I also felt a certain kind of calm. I sat down on the edge of the bed, still not feeling anything and reached out a hand to touch the forehead of the lookalike. My hand passed through the head.
I jerked my hand back in shock. The touch of the head had not been solid, but like pushing my hand through a dense mass of frozen air.
It was still dark in my room, even with the window open and so I noticed the bright light as soon as it appeared.
I turned to look and the door to my bedroom was open, but instead of the usual hallway complete with small tables with stands of books upon them, and prints of famous artists hanging on velvet purple wallpapered walls, there was just this bright white light.
I stood up to examine this more closely.
Nothing changed. The light remained steady and unchanging.
For no reason I could explain I felt both fear and great peace from looking at the light. I remember reading once that when people died a tunnel of white light appeared, but this wasn't a tunnel. My preacher had said sinners go to hell, but I didn't see any flames or forks and devils.
I went closer to look. A kind of gentle warmth exuded from the light, even more so the closer I came to it. Finally I thrust my hand into it. It felt like immersing it into a warm bath water.
I stuck my head into it and ahead of me I could see a flowing path of golden light that crossed through towering columns of white light. Ahead on the path were some people I had known before. My father and mother, my old girlfriend from high school, a coach I had loved, a librarian who had instilled love for books and reading in my heart. And in their midst stood a man with radiant eyes, his face glowing with warmth, his eyes burning with a light so gentle and deep that my heart felt as if it might burst.
At that moment all thoughts of teaching escaped my mind.
I knew then that I had graduated from the school of Earth and was no longer going to be teaching. I also realized at that moment that I wasn't just teaching others, but teaching myself, that I was learning how to love even though there was none in return, that I was learning how to give, even when there was no return of such.
How did I realize that?
Let's just say that at that moment I knew why the sparrows outside my window were singing so brightly, so merrily. They knew what was most precious about life. And now I did too.
That even in the darkest of my teaching hours there had been hope and light and that no motion, or good thing I did was ever wasted. For I could also see in the path of light many of the hardest of the children I had worked with over the years, grown up now, but recognizable. I could see them smiling and waving at me. I knew then that love was never wasted and that my life had not been in vain.
I exited my room and went into the Light to join my friends there. Yes. It was going to be a great day. A very great day indeed.