Today I went to the funeral for one of my Grade 12 English teachers. Lynne Axworthy is one of the teachers who encouraged me to write. She was not the first but she would be the last of my teachers who had the opportunity to help me to see I had a gift. She also was the one who introduced me and my peers to the world of live theatre–both starring in it and hauling us to some amazing plays. Upon graduation, I visited Vancouver and my uncle said I could do anything I wanted on Saturday night. To his initial chagrin, I asked to see A Streetcar Named Desire and managed to hook him into getting season’s tickets after that. He has her to thank for that, indirectly, I suppose.
If we are lucky, we all have that one teacher who makes a life-changing difference. I had several in my academic career, from a very early age. What I learned today though is that those types of teachers are those types of people. You know the type I mean. The ones who fiercely clutch hope, peace, joy, and love and scatter them abundantly all around in order to make the world an amazing place.
I did not know Mrs. Axworthy as a person because I was still a kid finding my own way but today many things fell into place. I did know that she had a passion for art and culture which she shared widely. Today’s service was sprinkled with poetry and stunning classical music. It occurred to me that she taught what brought her joy, what made her alive and what was her passion. Of course, I understand that now but I did not back then.
I also did not know how much she suffered because she never came across as a stern person. Her mother passed when she was young. She also lost her father and a brother. She was a feminist, a politically-astute woman, and a social activist. She marched in the south during the civil rights movement; how did I not know there was a kindred spirit there? I did not know the word feminist until I was in my 20’s but today when they called her one, I smiled and nodded. Yes, she was indeed.
Mrs. Axworthy left a legacy of joy behind. Her niece told a wonderful, poignant story about her aunt of which the essence was her generosity. Now involved in education, I can see that she gave way more than many teachers do, and not because teachers do not give. No, the “Axe” gave beyond the most extreme givers both to her students and to those she loved. I have fond memories of the school activities which she ran–the school plays and of the cast party at her home. I am not alone in my rememberings. When I read through the tributes left online with her obituary, I could not help but glimpse the respect and awe folks had for her. I am grateful that she helped my siblings and I love literature. I am thrilled that she provided my classmates and I an outlet to read a wide range of genres and to critique our writing with affirmation. She pointed me further down the path I had already been walking and because it was her, I walked it with greater confidence. I hope you all have someone you can thank tonight, someone who has left you and this world a legacy of joy.