Father Taylor

I just got words that my teacher, Father Taylor, died on October 10 at age 83. A wonderful, devoted man, he never actually taught me in a class, but he directed a few of us, all 12- or 13-year-old boys, in a play entitled "Under the Skull and Bones" that won the top prize at the joint-school drama competition. I'll never forget that -- I still have the South China Morning Post article and photograph to prove it. I played a pirate in the production, and it was my first public performance as an "actor," and I had to speak English! In front of a British judge. That experience, under the gentle but firm guidance of Fr. Taylor, paved the way for my lifelong love for the performance art. I loved the play so much that a few years later, I staged and directed another production in honor of Fr. Taylor. I added a soundtrack and played the police officer this time, leaving the fiendish pirates (as Fr. Taylor used to say) to our more talented actors. Fr. Taylor was kind enough to give us suggestions and lend us the costumes, including a very cool British "Bobbie" uniform, complete with a helmet, for me. He saw the show and was very pleased with our production. We made him proud.

Fr. Taylor was always a very kind and encouraging teacher and friend. His devotion to education, the English language, and the arts won us over. His love for his students is returned. He had and will always have our respect. Even though I haven't seen him for over 20 years, I will never forget Father Taylor.

His life and his death remind me of this touching story sent by my good friend Michelle:

Babs Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr.Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

"Hello Barry, how are you today?"

"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. Sure look good."

"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"

"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."

"Good. Anything I can help you with?"

"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."

"Would you like to take some home?"

"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."

"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"

"All I got's my prize marble here."

"Is that right? Let me see it."

"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."

"I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"

"Not zackley. but almost."

"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."

"Sure will Thanks Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."

I left the stand smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts...all very professional looking.

They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket

"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them. Now,at last,when Jim could not change his mind about color or size....they came to pay their debt."

"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho "

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath.

Today I wish you a day of ordinary miracles..A fresh pot of coffee you didn't make yourself. An unexpected phone call from an old friend. Green stoplights on your way to work. The fastest line at the grocery store. A good sing-along song on the radio. Your keys right where you left them.

Send this to the people you'll never forget. I just Did... If you don't send it to anyone, it means you are in too much of a hurry.


Beautiful post, Ray. I'd send it to you, but that would be redundant. ;) Hope your day goes as well as you wish for everyone else.
Take care.
Ray Wong said…
Thank you Joanne. Please know that you're loved.
samgail said…
Ray, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you for sharing.

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