Connections – Episode 1

It was one of the shortest obituaries to appear in the local paper in years. It only contained the barest of information about the deceased. It did have an ending that was unusual. “The deceased has requested that there be no visitation, memorial service, or any similar effort on his behalf.”

For Jodie Wilson, the obituary hurt her more than if it had been one of her own family members. The deceased had turned her life around when she was a student in his class. She knew that she wasn’t the only one who had been similarly impacted. She was saddened that there would be no way to remember him. She was also not surprised that he had requested a very simple burial. That was the way he lived his life.

What troubled Jodie was that a lot of what her professor had done to support those he taught would be buried with him. She hoped to tell the story of what he did to make a connection with every one of the thousands of students he taught.

She decided to reach out to his wife to see if she could help, but without much success. “My husband rarely talked about his work with students. I do have one thing that may help. When he retired, his former students put together a book of memories. These are personal stories of how he helped them. I didn’t even know it existed until I was cleaning out his work area. I’d be glad to share it with you if you promise to return it.”

For Jodie, the memory book triggered an idea. Could she use the book to collect a series of memories from students’ first connection with her professor until the end? And would this be a way to preserve the legacy of how he connected with those he taught? And would such an effort go against his last wishes?

What she decided to do was to compile a series of letters from the memory book that would be helpful to others. Since the intent was one of helpfulness and not glorification, she felt that she wouldn’t be going against her professor’s final wishes. In fact, she would structure the book so that her professor’s name would never be mentioned.

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