I sent an email to my beloved former sophomore English teacher on May 4, and did not receive a reply from my normally prompt friend. We had been in communication without a lapse since I was in his class in 1991. That makes 25 years of friendship and many, many letters and shared experiences over the years.
I feared the worst and told my husband. He suggested that I call to see. I remembered while I was in my car, but decided against it. If anything happened to him, I did not want to know. I would live in a fantasy that he was fine and he had just missed the email. I wrote a card to him on Friday, written inside a card about friendship with a pretty sunflower in a field surrounded by warm sunlight. I didn’t tell my husband, and I didn’t mail it.
When I got home, my husband had me sit down and he told me the news. He had looked up Father Ambrose on the internet and found his obituary. He had died on Sunday, March 6th, and never received the birthday wish.
I have been devastated since yesterday. This teacher was my father when my own father was out of my life for an extended period of time. My dad and I would reconcile many years later, but throughout the entire 25 years, I thought of Father Ambrose as my father. I even sent him some Father’s Day cards. He was there for me for 25 years, longer than anyone I have ever known. He supported me with gentle encouragement, philosophical thought, and deep reflections on poetry and quotations throughout many years.
A few years ago, I asked him if I was ever able to compile all of his letters, would I have permission to publish them into a book. He said yes and I think this might be my project this summer.
In his honor, here is a deeply stirring and sad song that he taught us when I was in Glee Club in high school:
Take me back, oh hills I love,
Lift me from this lonely bed,
Light my way with stars above,
Curl soft winds about my head,
Wash my feet in crystal streams,
Cradle my arms in boughs of oak,
Breathe the scent of pine for dreams,
Wrap me tight in earthen cloak.
I started typing up an essay he once sent me.
You can find it here: Father Ambrose’s Autobiography
Goodbye, my dear friend. May your body rest in boughs of oak, may your way be lit with stars above and may you find your joy in the arms of the Lord. I will miss you more than you would ever know. I love you.