Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Remembering Mrs. Schmuck

It was the fall semester of 2011. As I completed my Secondary English Education Internship at Pensacola Christian Academy, I heard the news: Mrs. Sandy Schmuck had died.

Mrs. Schmuck had always been a hero in my heart—the epitome of a Christian English teacher. Her love for people, for English, and for the Lord condensed into the beautiful person that she was. As an intern under Mrs. Baker, who had been an intern to Mrs. Schmuck herself, I felt the loss very directly. I taught 11th grade English, Mrs. Schmuck’s “baby.” The notes that I taught from, the box I used to carry papers, and the visuals I used were all inherited from her. I cried hard upon the final realization that she would never come back to teach again.

My heart weighed heavy throughout my internship. Every time I sat down to copy notes from Mrs. Schmuck's literature books, sorrow welled in me.
On the last week of my internship, I reached the last page of the literature book. The last poem--"How Did You Die?" by Edmund Cooke--read in simple but profound lines:

Did you tackle the trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there--that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts,
It's how did you fight--and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic would call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

At the very end, Mrs. Schmuck had scribbled while still in good health: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course!”

Feelings welled within me once more. But this time, a sense of closure and pride replaced the usual sorrow. It's not the fact that she's dead that counts, but the grace with which she had died. She had fought her fight and won her race.

I rejoice in her crown of glory.