My friend, high school teaching colleague, and fellow freehoodship leaf-catcher, James Meier, died quite suddenly on February 19 — he was 58 years old. I would like to share the elegy his students, fellow teachers, and I created for him.
Elegy for Mr. Meier
He was never small: too many liters of majesty, cubic acres of strength, kindness immeasurable.
He was towering, mischievous, sassy, commanding, devoted, wise, and gentle,
a great and fearless lion: teacher, sponsor, St. Nick, Michaelic Master of Ceremonies, Dumbledore.
He was tire iron and tissue box,
forged, by the man-makers of the old world, of pure thought, feeling, and principle.
He was the teacher of morals for those whose fathers never were,
book in one hand, spread open wide across his huge palm, the other with chalk
between his fingers, gesturing as he spoke.
He was an oracle
but you didn’t have to climb a mountain to get to him.
He knew the right words for situations, his voice
filling every corner of the room, no matter how quietly he spoke.
He saw each of us for who we were – he saw what was shining inside.
I want to thank him for that, thank him for having my back even
when I was not honest with myself.
He taught more than humanities;
he taught us what it was to be humanity.
He was a knight,
an instructor of strength, completely in character when striking
a superman pose as a fireman in front of the Oasis Springs hotel,
saying, “No thanks are necessary, I was just doing my job!”
He was here to teach us that we can always do better,
that we can always do more than we ever thought possible,
that giving our best is the best thing we can do.
He was inspirational with his blue toenail polish
and spandex bike shorts. Once, he taught, nonchalantly, an entire
English class dressed in a long flowing purple robe and turban.
He was the king of Waldorfia: when he told the people to cheer,
Here are five instructions for being Mr. Meier:
1. Become a great writer with hard-to-read handwriting.
2. Learn everything there is to know about U.S. History.
3. Have a voice meant for audio books or radio.
4. Learn to sing.
5. Try again. It will take a lot more practice to be Mr. Meier.
In his pastel shirts,
he would stride across campus,
covering what seemed like a mile with each step. Only yesterday,
I had a dream I was in class and Mr. Meier was the teacher.
For the whole class he walked around giving students hugs.
Never spoke a word, just gave us hugs.
Now, as I wander on the bike path,
through a grassy field, past the quad,
and near his office, I feel surrounded by his presence
and his deep capacity for love.