Like a high school senior waiting until the last minute to compose a college admission essay, so too yours truly. We lost a legend this past academic year in Dr. Joyce Ferris. I have been reflecting on what she meant to me, to all of us, since we received the news in late December and, in that, trying to figure out how to sum it all up. Because we have a small gathering tonight in her honor, I’d better hup to.
“Ode to Joyce” kept rattling around in my brain. I figured I could whip off an ode in a few days, but no such luck. I read quite a bit of Keats in preparation to write but that began to squeeze the enjoyment out of the task. In fact, as I struggled through each stanza I could hear Joyce chuckling. A brilliant English teacher, she might have said something like, “Life’s too short to slog through stuff that doesn’t light your fire! Go do something you love such as grading calculus exams or walking your dogs!” That’s one of the things I really appreciated about Joyce, she was wise enough to never judge one’s likes or dislikes. It was absolutely clear that people didn’t have to come together over similarities or differences, they could just come together and enjoy one another’s company.
Here’s something Joyce really did say many many times. In fact, she didn’t just say it, she lived it. Work is more fun than fun. Isn’t that a unique perspective? Ever curious, Joyce loved school from the moment she was able to attend. As an adult, Joyce immersed herself in one academic milieu after another from boarding schools to day schools to camp schools. Wherever she was, it was clear that it was her favorite place to be. That’s why we all flocked to her. She radiated joy in the school setting. I could not wait to plop down in one of her office chairs and stay awhile. It was hard to see her office empty this June.
But, I expected it to be harder. I expected to be in some sort of dark fog for days. What follows is the first draft of my Ode to Joyce. Perhaps I will work on it more some day, but perhaps I will walk my dogs instead.
Ode to Joyce
Ne’er was a person so aptly named as you
Joyful, you brought joy to others too
Understanding that love was not something to be rationed for the precious few,
Understanding that love must be heaped on the multitude
O for a glimpse of you, dear Joyce! cautiously descending the stair,
clad in matching coral separates, ruby red toes
Jewelry to compliment and give flair.
Or, perhaps, a glimpse of you steering your maroon sedan,
cloud of dust close behind
Heading off to your five o’clock somewhere.
O for a visit with you, Joyce! To be in your office, to sit in a chair,
Hear tales from your childhood, what a remarkable journey,
To be warmed by your rays of light and love
to tell you my story, to know that you care.
Oh Joyce! Earthly sprite no more!
You have moved to the realm of the Gods
Immortal Joyce, for your lessons live in all of us.
Each time we have an opportunity to love, may we embrace it in your memory.