I just got home from John’s funeral. I saw quite a few familiar faces present– professors from Siena Heights University, mostly. I saw a couple people who were also students of John’s, as well.
Before the ceremony, it was very awkward. People smiled and said hello to me, but spoke at length with my two friends, and tended to ignore me. This was likely my own fault, for trying to avoid the spotlight back in college.
What hit me hardest was a glance I stole at the open casket. It was definitely him. He looked, at that distance, much as he always had– a bit serious, but with a smile just waiting to come out. I imagined his strong hands offering random objects to work with in his classes. Random blobs of metal from the forge, a simplistic pocket knife, a sheaf of printed papers that were filled with pictures and descriptions of the subjects I showed an interest in.
John was always encouraging, but a bit distant with me. As people spoke after prayers, I soon came to realize that he treated everyone with encouragement. Push farther, exist with purpose, think more, don’t look at what something is: these were the lessons he taught.
Somehow, I felt cheated by myself. I had simply played in his class. The little would-be genius who wasted time on trivial projects out of fear of success. I didn’t want to learn and succeed at that time. I couldn’t fail such fun classes by neglect if I was doing work, but I did skip classes until I failed one of his classes.
I regret that.
I regret that I wasn’t more of a sponge in his studio classroom.
I regret that I was a child, rather than a student.
College was expensive day care for me.
I wish I could have shown John that I was slowly improving myself. I wish I had improved myself enough to be a real student for him before he passed away. I wish I could have heard him tell me his crazy stories, instead of simply listening in like the coward I was, and still am.
I couldn’t even say these things at the funeral.
The only person, I think, who picked up on my feelings for this amazing teacher was my friend, Stephen. I think I worried him.
When the ceremony came to a close, the back row was sent up first for a final good-bye. I could only look inside the casket for a few short moments. John looked like he was made of wax, but also like he was ready to smirk– just barely holding in his laughter that we were all making such a fuss.
I swear, I almost saw his eyes open.
I wanted to say something to John’s wife, but something held me back. She barely even glanced at me before I excused myself and went outside.
I hoped to talk to Father Tom or Peter Barr, but both were busy, and I lacked the courage to speak up and ask to talk, especially when I had no idea what I would say.
Now that I’m finally home, the tears are coming out. I think I’ll just listen to music and waste time.
I want to visit the studio again, and just create with no goal in mind. I wonder if my brother or mother will give me a ride over the weekend.