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Posted by on Feb 5, 2010

Memory, Loss, and Learning

It has been a few months (5) since my Uncle Larry has passed away and rather than reflect on the loss itself, I decided it would be worthwhile to recreate the experience as a learning threshold, a point where knowledge expands upon itself in some sort of portal experience.

My Uncle Larry and Aunt Joanne

I suppose there have been a few things I have learned based on my Uncle Larry’s passing, not specifically based on the passing itself. Since I have some Teutonic blood in me (much to the chagrin of my Gaelic forebears), it seemed appropriate to relate these in numeric, bullet-point form. Yes, he would have appreciated me trying to quantify and categorize the passage of life and that complicated mass of emotions that live in its wake.

1. Death is loss- There is less. That is an absolute. Part of me died with him and I am not the only one who can make that claim. That is not even a rarefied bunch, much to his credit.

2. Close is close- I still plot my next moves with him in mind. I still imagine the historic underpinnings of my movements, actions, my next plot point. Let’s put it this way. If I were to move to Donegal, my Uncle Larry would implicitly understand the gesture. If I were to move to Rome, he would spout Latin and I would counter with Shakespeare. That is the way we rolled. None of that has changed. I still have grand gestures up my sleeve. I just have to make them grander to push the message through to the other side.

3. Life is one gigantic learning experience- There is a reason for every action. A thousand reasons, perhaps. There is a plot point to every dream, a complication to every measure. Map it, but don’t suspend it. Do not let analysis lead to paralysis. Life is meant to be acted upon. Informed contemplation should lead to absorbed decisiveness.

4. Fear is pedestrian- I stand before my Uncle Larry and know that I am not afraid. I am done with fear. I am mortal and I certainly have a healthy respect for that.  But I am not beholden to that. I am a living, impressionable, unflagging individual. Full of hope. Full. Thank you for that, Uncle Larry.

So, teachers. How can we transform life into learning? How can we take our cultural equivalent of Uncle Larry and let a living inspiration turn into a metaphysical transformation? Are we meant to be socially critical and towards what end? What does it mean to accept and live and love? How can we take loss and strengthen ourselves with it? I do believe this personal experience is the beginning of our students interactions with discomfort, with a troublesome knowledge. I was just lucky enough to have a figure like Uncle Larry (amongst others) to walk me through it. How can we transform our students’ experience with loss and make it constructive?

The only reason I refer to the video above is because the last time I talked to my Uncle Larry, we talked about our (Jen and I) trip to Tunisia, especially Carthage. I mentioned how incredible it was to see the horizon into Italy exactly how Hannibal would have seen it. And this was most definitely it.

My traveling companion is Dr. Siro Masinde, the definition of both a gentleman and a scholar.

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