In order to avoid complaining about my classes and how hard college seems to have become since the last time I was there, I'll share with you where the connection of English teacher/Funeral Director really first began.
December 17, 1992, I stood in the hallway after school with friends. It was late but I didn't have to work until 5:00 (at Hardees) so we were just shooting the shit by our lockers. Brad was there, and Kale, I'm sure, and a few others though I don't remember exactly. Naomi Lindscheid was in Mr. Eckhoff's room. Eugene Eckhoff was my speech coach and pretty much the coolest teacher in our school. Everyone loved and respected him. He was one of those toiling, brilliant teachers that gives tirelessly to his students until he retires, then he still stays involved because he still loves kids. Right? Except that Naomi came running out of Mr. Eckhoff's room that day, which was a Tuesday I think, saying that he had collapsed.
I ran into the room. He was on the floor behind his desk not moving. Naomi and I got him laid out flat on the floor, I moved his legs, and she began CPR because she was a swimmer and knew how. When our assistant principal got to his room (in record time) he did mouth-to-mouth.
And I watched my English teacher die.
I won't say that I'm an English teacher because of Mr. Eckhoff. There were other teachers who followed him, including his replacement, Raymond Philippot, who had a far greater impact on me because they were there. But, there's no question in my mind that seeing death and teaching English became permanently linked together in my mind on that day in December, when I stood by and watched--not because I could help, but because I couldn't turn away.