Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thanks, my friend! August 1

photo - UMKC
At the impending start of a new school year, I would like to commemorate a former professor who had a great influence on me.  Even though I've sang her praises in this blog before, my latest University alumni newsletter brought fond memories back in a flush of emotion.  Dr. Carol Koehler was my instructor for an undergraduate class and a grad class, as well as the director of my internships.  She was understanding, supportive, and always there for a pep talk when I taught class as a GTA for one very long semester!

This incredible woman inspired many students under her tutelage.  She encouraged me when I graduated and moved to a small town, offering ideas for seeking contentment in an environment where I otherwise may have floundered creatively.  It was sort of a "blossom where you're planted" but remain humble kind of advice.  I had reached out to Dr. Koehler in the fall last year, updated her on my life changes, and shared my recently self-published novella with her by email.  I thanked her for the attention and guidance she had given me in the past.  As always, her warmth and praise sprang from the screen in her response email, and she asked me to stay in contact.  Little did I know she was undergoing heart surgery the next month, and it ultimately claimed her life.  A student caller seeking alumni donations for an honorary scholarship gave me the shocking news.  I hadn't responded to Carol's last email, and I'm so sorry for my delay.

Dr. Koehler was the type of person who called everybody "kiddo" but in a way that exuded her maternal nature and caring spirit.  She had a great sense of humor and affected the lives of countless people with her generous time and attention.  The messages on her online obituary continue as more people who benefited from her presence are informed of her death and express their heartfelt condolences.

We can all aspire to leave a legacy such as hers.  I learned you don't put off that email or phone call to someone you care for and appreciate.  You may not get another chance.  Each week I try to encourage readers to tell their friends you love them.  Today I want to recognize there are still outstanding people in the world who serve as excellent role models. Tell those people how they help make your life more enjoyable by being in it.

In admiration and reverence of Dr. Carol Koehler, I say to anyone reading this,"l'chaim."  Don't put off telling someone how much they mean to you.  You'll be glad you did.

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