It was the end of September when I saw my cousin at my dad’s 80th birthday celebration. As we had both just started wandering through the complicated maze of our new school years, burdened by the new teacher evaluation procedures, that topic monopolized our conversation.
We had become teachers at the same time, close to thirty years earlier and had seen proposed changes and complications come and go to the teaching system; but this new system packed with tests after tests for students and task after task for teachers, was agreed to be the most concerning yet. And so we spent our time together discussing this evaluation system and how this year was destined to be our toughest year yet.
A few days later, she would find out she had cancer.
A few months later, she would be gone.
Looking back, I think of so many more worthwhile topics we could have spent our last big conversation on. Maybe we could have remembered summer weeks spent together at grandma and grandpa’s house picking beans and then snapping them on the front porch while listening for the sound of the noon whistle that alerted us to grandpa and his white truck coming home for lunch from the mill.
Perhaps we could have laughed at how we would race up the gravel driveway, arriving breathless to the end of the apple orchard to wait for grandpa to pull in, lower the truck’s gate and take us on a ride around the orchard while we bopped up and down, certain one of us would bounce out, if we didn’t hold on to each other.
We might have spent our precious time that day discussing shared secrets, whispered dreams and girlish giggles that filled our youth. We could have reminisced about our weddings, our children, our shared hobby of crocheting which grandma had taught us both during those summer vacations spent together.
But instead, we spent one of our last moments together lamenting on the dark shadow of the new teacher evaluation looming before us.
These few months later, I am less a fan of the teacher evaluation system than ever, and I’m sure, had she been here, my cousin and I would have more to complain about today.
But she’s not here.
And that fact is enough to wake me up to what is really important in my life.
This teacher evaluation and all the hoopla that accompanies it is here. It will do what it needs to do and then move on for something else to eventually take its place and sooner-or-later, concern us as well. But I am going to try not to dwell in that shadow of its darkness anymore. There are far more wonderful things to discuss with the people in my life. There are infinitely more precious memories to share as well as make today.
I guess we all need to be reminded from time to time that we never know when the last conversation we have with someone might truly be the last conversation we have.
One day I believe there will be a worthwhile evaluation of my life and it will have nothing to do with scales and tests and data. And today, I better understand how I want to spend the precious time I have between now and that ultimate Judgment Day.