I was shell-shocked today to discover that one of my favorite teachers from High School, Mrs. Linda Beckum, passed away from cancer. Speechless because I had no idea, and because I suddenly realized that I had let more than a decade pass since I last saw her. Granted, that’s not uncommon, particularly when you spent most of those years living hours away from where you were raised.
I went to a relatively small school system and was very lucky that across the years in the Macon County school system, good teachers who cared were the norm, not the exception. So, when I speak of one as being amongst my favorites, it’s not intended as a slight to the rest at all. It would be closer in analogy to an olympic game. A few may have stood out more in my memory, but their peers were an equally impressive group.
Mrs. Beckum was my English teacher two years running, drama teacher, and homeroom teacher. It might sound like my good memories were simply a result of a lot of contact, but in a small place, it’s not uncommon for your teachers to wear multiple hats, never mind the better than decent chance some of them live down the street from you. No, it was more than simple familiarity. I remember a caring teacher with a sharp wit and intellect. I remember someone who for reasons known only to her decided I was going to be in our One Act Play competitions my Junior and Senior year although I had expressed no interest. Even though my acting career ended on the high school stage, it was an experience that still makes me smile when I look in the mental rear view mirror.
I may not have seen her in ages, but now and then my parents would run into Mrs. Beckum, and she always asked about me. And I always enjoyed hearing that she asked and discovering little tidbits about what was going on in her post-retirement life. I think the most humorous was discovering that we were both in England at the same time on my last trip there in 2008. The improbability of two people from this small community being across the pond at the same moment was strange enough. The chances of us running into one another would be astronomical. So no, my last time seeing her wasn’t in an improbable place like Britain.
I wish I had seen her again, but that wasn’t to be. Instead I’ll fondly recall that last time when she saw me and my mother amidst a sea of cars in an Americus parking lot. Mrs Beckum walked up with a broad smile and hugged me as if I was a long lost family member rather than one of a multitude of students.
The content of the conversation that followed is gone now, but I won’t forget seeing her. So yes, I will always remember her as an intelligent and dedicated teacher, but ultimately it’s the caring individual who I’m sorry I didn’t see again. And if it makes me this sad knowing she’s gone, I can only imagine how her family feels.
Good night Mrs. Beckum, it was a great show…