Becoming the Journey…

Dear Reader:

At the funeral service, for fellow friend and educator, Ellen Styles yesterday afternoon… I think the visual quote above could have summed her life up completely. Ellen, was one of those people, whom you wanted to be around because she was a “nice person” who did “nice things“…continuously.

It was close to standing room only in our church sanctuary and the service and sermon became an intimate storytelling session…exactly what Ellen would have wished for…

Tommy was kept busy directing cars to the back of the church’s large parking lot…keeping the traffic flowing…while Kaitlyn sang “The Lord’s Prayer” so beautifully one could almost hear tear drops hitting the floor in the hushed tone of the church. She has so much God-given talent in her voice. And speaking of talent, Susan Cadwell, close friend of Ellen’s, had volunteered to play the organ…a family affair!

There was a mixture of backgrounds and careers at the memorial service… but a large majority were teachers, educators like Ellen. Teachers are a loyal group and show up after years of not seeing another teaching comrade…many coming from long distances.

Jeff’s sermon, based on adjectives (from family and friends) that described Ellen in conjunction with Jesus’ death…with the name “rabbi” or “teacher” playing a major role in the final death scene… brought back a personal memory to me… *my own loss of a sibling.

Other close childhood friends and teaching buddies shared hilarious and caring tales about their witty friend who “sucked more marrow out of the bone of life” than several  “average Joe’s” put together.”

*My younger brother David, was in the midst of student teaching his senior years at Erskine College when he became suddenly ill. It was March of 1973…a cold rainy night. (The campus doctor had thought it might be the flu when he went to see him the day before and sent him home over the weekend. David woke mother up in the middle of the night and said he had to go to the emergency room…he was having trouble breathing.)

So on that cold rainy night mother rushed him to the hospital (driving with her one hand) only to discover that the emergency room entrance was under new construction and closed…mother was in a panic! Finally she found an lit open entrance and a stretcher was brought to take David in.

A young first -year intern was on duty…he started getting some information from David and the last question he asked him (when David told him he was a senior at Erskine) was what he was going to be? David looked him straight in the eye…and said “A teacher!” He then keeled over and was gone…an aneurysm  of the heart…side effect of Marfan’s Syndrome Disease.

What happened next was even more remarkable…the first-year intern didn’t have the heart resuscitator to try to re-start his heart…in all the construction it was on the third floor. The intern was panicking…and sobbing…as mother held David on the floor.

But with her one good hand she grabbed his and said “Son…it’s okay he’s already gone…there is nothing you could have done.” The intern fell on the floor weeping and calling out for help. Within seconds the rest of the staff found mother holding her dead son in her lap while  consoling her other ‘son’ …The word “teacher” still lingering in the air and thoughts of mother and the intern.

It was the word Mary uttered when she finally realized Jesus was alive and back from the dead…”Rabbi...teacher.”

Last week when I sent a condolence  card to Ellen’s husband, Brooks, and family, I added this quote that touches me every time I read it…the impact of the truth of it never fails to open my eyes to the journey we are on…and not just on…but own. We are the journey!

So until tomorrow…“Safe travels Ellen…you are simply changing directions now and all you have to do is keep going.” The rest of us will catch up with you one day. *You’d better have a great joke ready! 🙂

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh



About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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4 Responses to Becoming the Journey…

  1. A beautiful tribute to Ellen. I did not know her personally but I knew others who did and lovex her deerly. I love the bittersweet story you shared about your brother David. Another sweet lady who was a teacher and dearly loved passed right before Christmas…Gail.Moore. thosr of us who knew her loved her dearly too..sounds like Ellen and Gail were “cut out of the same cloth”


    • Becky Dingle says:

      They were…Gail Moore kept one in stitches too…and like Ellen’s children I taught Arthur, Jr. too and adored him…we have lost two outstanding teachers in a short amount of time for sure…but no doubt once a teacher always a matter where we are.


  2. Janet Bender says:

    I did not know Ellen, but your beautiful tribute makes me feel akin to her through teaching. She lives on in the many lives she touched.


  3. Becky Dingle says:

    Janet…I saw Marcia for the first time in years at the service…we had fun catching up for a little bit before everything got started..


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