I didn't WANT to be done...I just thought that I was. I knew I would occasionally run into a few of them at restaurants, movies, and even on the street - as I had for 30 years. My family is used to this happening, but they always laugh when it does. I admit it gives me a kick to think those kids I taught will still come anywhere near me.
But I really did think I was done. WRONG!
Since I began working in ministry, here is what has happened:
- I have done two funerals for the two maternal grandparents of a former student.
- I did another funeral for the grandmother of a different former student.
- When I was ordained and installed as the pastor for Heritage Presbyterian Church, two of my former students were there: one from a class I taught in 1986, and one from my last class in 2011.
- I counseled a family friend of a former student. The former student thought I could help. I wonder if I did...
- I invited a former student to preach to our church on "Youth Sunday" in October 2013. (By the way, he was fantastic!)
- I wrote college letters of recommendation to several former students who then got into college. No, I don't think I had much to do with that.
- I grieved at the senseless death of one fine young man who died in a shoot-out in a Houston night club. He was shot in the back by a young man who was angry at him for some stupid reason. My former student never saw it coming.
- I grieved at the senseless death of another fine young man who was riding in a car with some friends, and someone took a random shot at their car. The bullet pierced the back windshield, the front seat, and hit my former student in the back, killing him.
- I officiated at the wedding of a former student. LOVED doing that!
And the list will probably go on and on.
All of these things remind me of a few things:
1. With me, teaching was always personal. Although my students went on from my class to other classes and other teachers each and every year, I always considered them to be "mine" forever. Selfish, foolish, but true.
2. Their tragedies hurt me deeply. Their triumphs brought a lump of pride to my throat.
3. Triumph or tragedy, I am with them in spirit, if not in person.
4. I guess this will go on for many years, possibly forever.
I think I will always be "Mr. Plunkett" to lots of people. I am currently "Pastor Mark" to lots of other people. I wonder how much overlap there will be between the two groups.
PS - On a weekly basis, I still get to work with two of my favorite former students: my son and my daughter. I was their computer lab teacher for 5 years each. To them, I'm just "Dad."