Apr 272008
Authors: Anne Marie Merline

A few weeks ago, while my son was with his father and I actually could control the TV with the remote in my power, I ran into a TV show called ” The Last Lecture: A Love Story For Your Life.”

The special was about Randy Pausch, a computer science faculty member from Carnegie Mellon, who has been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

“The Last Lecture,” according to ABC News, was meant to be similar to a lecture series in which top academics are asked the question, “what would you say if you knew you were going to die and had a chance to sum up everything that was most important to you?”

In preparation for this, my last column, I wanted to ask myself, “what is the most important lesson that I have learned this year that I would like to convey to the students?”

I always write these columns when I am inspired by what happens in my life. This past Friday was no different.

After my 10:00 a.m. class, I had a day full of social engagements. 11:15 a.m. — tea with my friend Lisa whom I have not seen for about a year. 1:30 p.m. — lunch with my friend Michelle, and at 5:30 p.m., a party with other part-time faculty members from CSU.

While it might be evident that the evening event may have an obvious tie-in with my job, the other two are just as important.

Lisa works for Girl Scouts of Colorado. We first connected many years ago when I was looking for a non-profit agency for my students to help through a service-learning program.

I am looking into the possibility of having my students help some of the Girl Scouts earn a citizenship badge as a part of my class on voting rights history in the fall. I did this four years ago and it was a successful project for both my students and the Brownies and Junior Scouts that we helped.

I met Michelle, whom I consider one of my best friends, while I was the human at the white board at Front Range Community College. Michelle was one of the first students that I ever had the pleasure of teaching.

If I recall the circumstances correctly, Michelle was entering her first semester going to college as a non-traditional student.

I won’t get into most of the memories of our semester together, but suffice it to say, Michelle took many memorable risks which gave me the utmost respect for her before we parted our lives as students and teachers — roles we both played during our time together.

In the 10-plus years that we have known each other, she has grown in her personal life in so many ways. I am so proud of Michelle and all of her accomplishments as a student and all that she does outside of the classroom.

The reason that we went to lunch on Friday was to say goodbye to each other. Michelle, her husband, and her daughter are relocating to Salt Lake City. We met at Austin’s to catch up, say goodbye and to express our appreciation for each other.

It was amazing to me that we could meet in the classroom and become such an integral part of each other’s lives. She asked me to read a poem at her wedding many years ago, which to this day still makes me smile.

So what is that most important lesson that I have learned that I would like to pass on to you? The lesson I learned from Michelle on Friday.

She left yesterday for Salt Lake City and as of 1:30 p.m. on Friday, she told me that she only had three boxes of things packed. She remarked that she took the time this week to say goodbye to her long-term friends, and that she was not stressing about how much stuff actually got to Salt Lake City with her.

She added that you can always buy a new couch, that belongings are only such, and could be replaced. Friends, she told me, needed to be cared for and appreciated before she left.

Lesson learned.

Anne Marie Merline is a professor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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