JBB’s Final Thoughts Episode 28: Mr. Quinby’s Final Lesson: Perspective
Four paragraphs, the passing of a family member and this fellow educator’s final lesson: perspective.
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- music: Social Blindness – 22K by Smart Sound Music
- All images and screen grabs by Joe Bustillos ©2018 and ©2019
- music: Angelique Kidjo clip by Paul Quinby, May 5, 2018
Images used in podcast:
JBB’s Final Thoughts, episode28: Mr. Quinby’s Final Lesson: Perspective
Joe Bustillos here.
A week ago, following a very long battle with a respiratory illness my brother-in-law, Paul Quinby, passed away. He had been on a transplant list at UCLA but his illness lessened the chances of a good outcome and he was dropped from the program. He ended up in the ICU just before Thanksgiving. Over the following couple weeks he was visited by family and friends and was able to witness the wedding of his youngest daughter. I didn’t realize how little time he had left. He was moved to a comfort care facility and passed that night, December 8th at 9pm.
On December 4th he made a most amazing Facebook post titled, “Paul Quinby’s Circling the Drain Farewell Tour,” briefly explaining the circumstances and then saying his goodbyes. Quote:
“I have not always been easy to understand or get along with. I have been often brusque and self-centered. If I have hurt you, I am truly sorry. For those with whom I have not gotten along, I hold no grudge or judgement. That would be a waste of time and energy, when time is short.”
Paul’s classroom was one of the places I did my pre-teacher observations when I began my teaching career (where he noted my need to balance my enthusiasm with classroom control!). So the following passage hits very close to home. Quote:
“If you had a seat as a student in my class, thank you. I hope you sometimes felt the thrill of understanding new things and exploring the world while you were part of our class’s learning family, and that you took that sense of wonder with you. And you should know that you have been my teachers, too, when I remembered to listen.”
When I first heard of Paul’s passing I commented that it was going to take me some time to process this, and apologies to anyone offended by this discussion, but this is one of the ways I think things though, online. I have to laugh, in that I was a real annoyance at times with my constant camera at family gatherings and online posting. That’s one area where I butted heads with Paul, so apologies… truthfully, I’m not sure why I’m always doing the photography thing, etc.
One of the things that I recognized in Paul’s final post is the resolve one may have when one can see the end. While my illness from 2012 to 2014 never reached anything close to a final stage, things were going downhill so quickly that I had to consider what was next as I lost the ability to walk. I don’t doubt that Paul went through all of the stages of anger and sadness and depression over and over again. When I faced my possible curtain call I cried and expressed my appreciation to my then-girlfriend, that if this was where my road was going to end, then it was a pretty good place to go. I was lucky. I got the treatment I needed. But I resolved to learn whatever it was that I could learn from this experience.
One thing that really amazed me about Paul’s post was that he encapsulated his farewell in four short paragraphs. That, my friends is having laser focus on the point of all of this. In the end, what are the important things, and more importantly how do we express them in our daily lives? We can say (and post) all kinds of things, but how do we actually conduct our lives both when we are alone and when we are working with our neighbors? How do we deal with the needs of the moment and experience any sense of the long view.
Growing up religious, one would think that it’s all about the long view, all about the final reward. Alas, my memories as a young Catholic and later Evangelical was mostly feeling all twisted up inside because my flawed humanity crushed me on a daily basis. I may have been forgiven and honestly wanted to do “better,” but there wasn’t a moment when I didn’t seem to be in some failure mode. That didn’t work. It was difficult to appreciate anything when I rarely had the sense of not being a failure. And lest it sound like I’ve gotten over all of that, I was just thinking how I’ve been so overwhelmed these past months by my own expectations for what should be happening in my classroom to the point of illness and exhaustion and how silly that would have seemed to Paul from his perspective. When you care about the day-to-day it can be too easy to see everything as day-to-day and begin to miss the point of it all. I’ve certainly had that experience this school year.
Paul’s passing reminds me of all the things we say are important and generally fail to have enough time for… But then who decides what “enough time” really is? It is what is what it is, and if you are lucky enough to have experienced long hugs from a loved one, the smile of another human briefly connecting with you, the tears of exhaustion and perseverance, and good conversation and a great beer with friends and strangers, what else is there?
Paul said, “So I think it’s time to reflect on the blessing of having spent an incredibly warm, fulfilling and exciting life, with much loved family and friends. You have enriched my life, and I am grateful to you all.”
Paul, I will miss the heated verbal battles, the honest confrontations, the shared meals, beers, and tequila shots and the sense of human connection.
And to you, my dear family, friends and passing online strangers, however you’ve had this in your life, for however much time you’ve had… that’s the point… that’s the perspective that we often lose in the day-to-day grind.
Happy holidays, tell those around you how much you love them. It’s important.
Thank you for spending this time with me at JBB’s Final Thoughts. If you want to continue to participate in my outer monologue you can subscribe to my blog at http://joebustillos.com, scroll to the bottom of the page, click on the FOLLOW button where it says “Follow Blog via Email” and enter your email address. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel, just search for JBB’s Final Thoughts (and make sure it doesn’t auto-correct to “jobs final thoughts”… damn auto-correct!). Catch you later, enjoy.