The fear of death follows from the fear of life.
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
He must have been prepared as no one lived more fully.
His son Ryan described his dad as a fan. A fan of his wife, his sons, his many friends and co-workers. His God. A fan — one who is “fanatic” — totally immersed in and enthused about life. Did we ever NOT know him to be fanatic about how fantastic life is with that huge smile and boundless energy?
I remember one of, if not the first, Salute speeches he gave as principal to the 8th graders leaving Grover Middle School. The refrain was, “Just dance.” Move away from the edges of life and get out onto the big dance floor and dance!
Steve wasn’t just a great cheerleader, encouraging and motivating those around him to stretch, to take creative risks. He also was a great problem solver who helped to make things happen. If it was worth doing, then there had to be a way to get it done.
Steve made it possible for me to gather the data for my dissertation – a logistical challenge when teaching full time and needing to be in another teacher’s classroom – in another district – several hours a week, for half a year. Steve didn’t fix my schedule. Actually, he asked me to take on another class when he couldn’t find anyone else to teach that elective course. What he did do was ok my leaving school during my break time. Only Steve and his secretary Diane, a paragon of discretion, knew what I was doing.
I heard him say more than once, “Better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission.” I wonder if that was one of the secrets to his success as an administrator. Unflagging optimism, yes, but brooking no nonsense in the face of arbitrary rules and regs.
In his death, the richness of Steve’s life was on display for thousands to see and marvel. “I didn’t know he was so….you know…Christian.” Ah yes. Christian not in the sense that the media portrays it, but in the deepest, truest sense of loving God, following in Jesus’s path. Steve didn’t preach – not at work, not with students. But he lived it. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Everyone knew he was something different, something special. After the celebration of his life by his church community and being eulogized by his amazing wife and sons, maybe now they understand where that glow came from.
Steve preached on the light breaking through the darkness December 21st, 2015. He noted it was the longest night of the year. “That’s good news! It can only get better.”
That’s where we are, in the darkest time. We hold onto faith that it will get better. For those who loved the man —his family, his church congregation, but also his many friends, and his school district that lost one of the best administrators ever — life without Steve is very dark. A light has gone out of this world, though many of us believe that light is shining even brighter for us in the next. But it takes a lot for us to see that light that seems so far away from where we are right here, right now.
The shock is starting to wear off. The reality is settling in. Certainly, the celebration of his life, the inspiration of his family, his pastors, helped bring a glimmer of light back into our souls.
So much is lost. So much is changed forever. His family, his church, his school district, his friends — all have to find a way to move on without their number one fan.
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I wrote a column, Book Notes, for many years for local central NJ weeklies. Newspapers are a dying breed, but the desire to share thoughts on books lives on.