I remember walking into my English honors class junior year with excitement. I knew I had a few friends in the class and one of the books we were supposed to read was actually something to look forward to. But mainly, I knew my teacher, Rod Durham, was a fan favorite amongst the student body. He was hilarious, outgoing, full of love, and had the world's greatest laugh. His energy filled any room he walked into with light and happiness. That year ended up being one of the most enjoyable classes I had taken at the school and started my love writing. We would review my essays to make them flawless and he always encouraged me to write about things I loved. So here I am, doing just that.
Fast forward to my senior year of high school and I was dying to be his TA. After sending him a message on Facebook, the TA position was mine and I was ecstatic for what was going to come. We spent every day in class grading what needed to be graded as quickly as possible so we could get straight to our gossiping. The man knew all the tea that could possibly be spilled and I attempted to keep him up to date on the drama I knew. Usually, he already knew it but would be kind enough to pretend he didn't. We acted like little middle school girls around each other and everyone, including us, knew it was obnoxious. He slowly but surely became a friend instead of a teacher to me and that is what began to change my life.
We began to spend class periods talking about family struggles, our boyfriends, and things that were more than just goofy topics. I knew each and every day that I had someone to confide in. Someone that wouldn't judge my choices and point me in the right direction. He had all of the wisdom in life that I wanted and I hoped that one day it would rub off on me. His inspiring past and promising future made me want to push myself to be better each and every day. I was lucky enough to have someone like him in my life for the short amount of time I did. He has had a larger impact on my life in the 8 months we became super close than those who have been a part of my life for years.
March 13, 2016, was a day I don't think I'll ever be able to forget. It was the day Rod returned home to God. I woke up to the news and could've sworn I was really in a nightmare. None of it seemed real and I just couldn't understand why the Lord would take away someone so special in my life. I had never been old enough to truly understand loss when family members passed away during my childhood. Rod was the first person to pass away in my life that truly impacted me in my day-to-day. But after years of missing him and praying, I finally realized that some people aren't meant to stay forever. They are sent to change lives, leave an impression, and move on. Some move away, others leave you sad, and people like Durham, they watch from above.
As I think about some of our fondest memories, I think about when I found out I was accepted to FSU. I posted on Facebook explaining how I was accepted for Fall and he immediately commented "Oh. My. God. B. YAAAAASSSSS!! So proud of my Sel!!!" At the moment, I laughed because I could hear his big loud voice screaming through the phone screen at me. It was a moment we had been waiting for since I applied months earlier. The second I turned in my essay we had gone over a million times, we decided to put some good energy in the air and talk about all of the things I could do at FSU hoping to speak it into existence. Without him, who knows where I would be attending college.
I wouldn't be the writer I am today without his guidance. I wouldn't be the woman I am today without his inspiration. He taught me to be exactly who I am with no apologies. I learned to embrace my talents, no matter how small, and to showcase them without fear of failure. But his passing taught me that life is too short to wait around for those opportunities. I no longer hope for things I know that are in my reach, I approach them head-on knowing they could be mine. I miss him daily but I know that he watches me from above and still continues to guide me. His spirit will continue to live on in me and all of the other people he touched. Thank you, Rod, you will never know just how much you mean to me.