What will your verse be?

Robin Williams passing has stuck with me. It wasn’t until I scrolled through Twitter hashtags, trending Facebook messages and countless video tributes that I realized how many wonderful pop culture sound bites were contributed by this very talented man.

My transitional Robin Williams moment was in high school. My eccentric senior English teacher played Dead Poet’s Society in class and for the first time in my life, I considered embracing my love of the stage. This was indeed an odd concept for a closeted introvert. I was equal parts dance lover and academic nerd who hated math. I was a polite, respectful rule follower who completely came out of my shell when presented with a beautiful piece of choreography or One Act Play script. When Williams’ character Professor Keating tells his classroom full of people pleasing students, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world,” I sat a little straighter.

Mrs. Lee was a hundred years old, looked like the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and taught exactly one honors English class at Hallsville High School. She also completely believed with all of her heart that she could correctly predict the future. We all loved her. She encouraged those of us with a creative streak to approach our studies in unconventional ways. For example, Mrs. Lee gave us a choice when it came to tests. We could either take a written one or turn in a video depicting all the lessons learned from the piece of literature. WHO DOES THAT? My friend Julie and I were approached by two brilliant classmates (Gene and Adrian) to see if we wanted to team up and submit our final on Pygmalion as a video. I can still remember Julie yelling at the horses in the pasture next to my house, “COME ON DOVER! MOVE YOUR BLOOMIN’ ARSE!”

We may have thrown some My Fair Lady references in there for comic relief. And Mrs. Lee loved every second of our masterpiece.

She encouraged us to look at our lives through a different lens. She knew we had potential and that a great big world was out there just waiting for us to make our mark. She gave us permission to be ourselves and freedom to branch out a bit beyond our comfort zones. I had no idea at the time, but her entire class was a lesson on carpe diem. For a bunch of kids from a one red light town, this was an extremely important part of our education.

Professor Keating: “The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Mrs. Lee helped us to consider the possibility of making our lives extraordinary. And it worked. I think back to all of my friends in that class and smile at the phenomenal things they are doing with their lives. I’m so glad that Gene was compassionate enough to arrange for a proper send off during the final exam on our last day in Mrs. Lee’s class. One-by-one, we all stood on our desks and saluted her with a heartfelt, “Oh Captain, my Captain.” I still get a little teary thinking about it today.

Dancing may not have been my career path, but that’s okay. This is my stage. Words are my life and I find great comfort in Professor Keating’s charge to his students:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for. You are here – life exists. The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

If you’re hurting, please find someone to talk to. USA Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

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Hayleyhb
Hayleyhb
August 16, 2014 11:59 am

Wow! Thanks for sharing your gift!!!! I bet Mrs Lee could not be prouder of you!

Lorraine
Lorraine
August 16, 2014 1:05 pm

That was beautiful and poignant; one of the best tributes I’ve read about Robin William’s passing. I’m glad he and Mrs. Lee inspired you so much.

Rachel
Rachel
August 16, 2014 1:40 pm

This brought me to tears. What a beautiful piece. I am getting ready to start the school year. I teach grades 10-12. They have crammed way too many students into my classes. But I want to reach them. I wanted to refuse to proctor the standardized testing that is destroying our educational system and making it nearly impossible for someone like Mrs. Lee to give you the kind of experiences she did. I was told by the union that, in my state, I would lose my teaching certificate and my retirement if I didn’t give the tests. But I protest… Read more »

Chris
Chris
August 16, 2014 2:19 pm

Lincee, I love this, thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us. From your hilarious recaps to your serious pieces you capture our hearts. Carpe Diem!

Norma
Norma
August 16, 2014 3:26 pm

Lincee, you truly are gifted with the ability to write beautiful, insightful and even hilarious pieces. Your talent is beyond amazing. I enjoy reading every thing you write. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.

Sara
August 16, 2014 5:26 pm

What a wonderful tribute! You wrote a wonderful tribute to Mrs. Lee! Her legacy lives on through you! I really enjoyed learning about her!

Ally
Ally
August 16, 2014 6:39 pm

Just.Wow!

Shelle
Shelle
August 17, 2014 7:19 am

Oh Captain, my Captain.

Wendy
Wendy
August 17, 2014 12:21 pm

Lincee thank you for rekindling the memory of Mrs. Lee. We all listened to her tell us our predictions as if we were listening to our futures. What a great article. I’m so thankful we are able to benefit from your talent of writing.

Jackie
Jackie
August 18, 2014 10:06 am

Lincee – as always, what a thoughtful and beautifully expressed memory! Dead Poet’s Society has always been one of the most powerful movies for me too. A history teacher of mine showed it to us – he was our Mrs. Lee – always encouraging us to go out into the world and change it in our own way. Sadly he passed away in the fall of my senior year of high school. At a mass in his honor, our class recited O Captain, My Captain! and one by one all the girls in the senior class stood as we read… Read more »

loves waves
loves waves
August 18, 2014 2:34 pm

I am one of the people in this life fortunate to have known the gentleman personally and watched him change from a teen to the precious (hu)man he became. He was everything positive you’ve heard, and so much more. His passing leaves a wound in many of us, and I am quite sure he never would have believed (or been able to endure) the sheer volume of love and support expressed for him at his passing. It’s hard to imagine a world where Robin isn’t riding his bike or riffing off the SF Giants mascot, or telling stories about how… Read more »

Lorraine
Lorraine
August 18, 2014 8:12 pm

loves waves, thank you for sharing that with us here and for reminding us to remember the joy. Robin brought me so much laughter in my life, and my formative years were spent working in a movie theater in the ’90s. I cannot tell you how many times I sneaked into the back during one of his movies. I re-watched several favorite movies on the weekend, and they all brought back fond memories. I send to you my deepest condolences.

Beth
Beth
August 18, 2014 8:18 pm

Beautifully written, Lincee. My Mrs. Lee was my amazing, senior year AP English teacher, Mr. White. <3 He had a list (hundreds and hundreds and hundreds) of books from all genres and periods that we were able to individually choose to read. Each book had points assigned to it (based on length, readability, etc.). Once we were finished reading a book (at our own pace) we had to recap it (either via traditional book report, creativly writing alternate endings in the author's style, writing a review to encourage others to read the book, having a face to face discussion with… Read more »

arlene
arlene
August 18, 2014 9:08 pm

Lincee, I am so glad you had a Mrs. Lee. Robin Williams’ death impacted me, too. Keep sharing your gift of writing.

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