My Zunivers

03 September 2009

Surprises From Old Friends

This week I made a rather random discovery on Facebook. I found the now grown-up daughter of my favorite professor ever. Okay, I admit... it was sort of intentional. He had a weird last name.

Why did I look for her instead of for my favorite professor ever? For those of you who don't know me, my favorite professor ever died in 2002. He was only about 45 years old, and he left behind three wonderful children and a wife. At the time there was no way I could help them other than to pray. He had such a great family, and he lived for them and his friends and students (who he counted as friends). Even when he was ill in 1999 and 2000 he always used it as a way to make people feel better about his life and their own. He was always joking about the possibility of his own death-- how the time to find a replacement would be one more chance for the college administration to save a buck, how someone else would need to clean his office, and how it sucked to be us because we would have to live with it and he wouldn't. "It's only death," he said often. "Worse things could happen to me." My comfort with real-life morbid humor reached its peak when, after his surgery, he howled with glee as I told him that while he was jaundiced and gaunt I had, behind his back, referred to him Big Bird and talked about the chances of his being Snuffied out. (He was physically built like Big Bird and he knew it, so it was pretty funny.) That was one of the lessons I learned from him-- you can't take yourself seriously until you can laugh at yourself. The reason I want to teach at a small college is because if I'm a scientist I want to be one like him. I know I never will, but I can always try.

Anyway, Abby is just as perky as ever. She had a baby a couple months ago and seems to be in good spirits. I can't really imagine what it would be like to be a kid and lose a dad. But her life is going okay. She isn't homeless or addicted to crack or anything like that. Her mom is doing alright too, although her face has aged more than someone should in eight years. I still haven't asked her about her brothers, but I'm hoping they are doing well. I'm sure all of them have quite a story to tell.

Just knowing that Abby is alive and well encourages me greatly. It reminds me that life can end up okay even after it goes what seems to be terribly wrong. Even in death my old professor is encouraging me.

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