The most vivid memories I have of my father are of him singing. His voice was soft and gentle, and would always lull me to sleep as a restless child. He would sing when we would comb beaches for new sea-glass, on our car rides to the local library, and while making pancakes at 6am. My Dad’s voice was warm, and could make any song sound good. He even wrote some of his own music, singing of butterflies leaving and coming back another day, and others about balloons floating far, far away. His absolute favorite song was Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” that incorporated melodies and lyrics from several songs of love. Every time he sang the lyrics, “Well I see trees of green, and red roses too, I’ll watch them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world,” I could not have agreed more.
My dad’s love of music spurred my own singing and piano lessons. After years of performing for small groups of proud parents, my piano teacher had finally asked the inevitable question, “Why doesn’t your dad ever come to any of your performances? Is everything okay?” For the thousandth time in my life, I had to explain that my father had passed away in 2004 of thyroid cancer.
While my life continued on without my dad singing in the kitchen, his song did not stop playing. Growing older, I heard the lyrics of, “The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of people passing by; I see friends shaking hands saying, ‘How do you do?’ They’re really saying, ‘I love you.’” These lyrics sang more frequently as I noticed the love I had in my life, and they ring especially loud at Tabor. While I lost one dad, the world gave me so many more in response.
Chemistry Class. Mr. Cassista. While my brain couldn’t comprehend some (most) of the materials, this never deterred me from the subject. Mr. Cassista, you were always there to help: Mornings, lunch blocks, study halls, it didn’t matter, you wanted to help me succeed. Not only did you take the time to seriously reiterate the previous stoichiometry lesson, but you also ensured we had a good laugh every now and then. From projecting your fantasy football team, titled “The Cape Cod Bumz” (And everybody should note that he spelt Bumz with a Z), to even letting us play games on your phone after lab, my hatred of chemistry gradually dissipated. While I still wasn’t a fan of the equations, you taught me that learning a challenging subject does not have to be dreading lectures everyday, but instead learning through mistakes and how to laugh at yourself a little bit. You stressed that the classroom is not an arena and we’re not all out for each other for the best grade. Mr. Cassista, you put the fun in the fundamentals of chemistry. In these labs, I hear my dad singing Laugh to Keep from Crying, a song about humor in painful (chemistry class) situations.
During my freshman year at Tabor, Mr. Bratton gave a few friends and me the famous golf ball of wisdom, mine stating, “Stay true to yourself, Mr. B.” This small token from Mr. Bratton keeps reminding me of how he made freshman year at a new school less terrifying and much more welcoming. Mr. Bratton, thank you for giving me the confidence I needed to survive and enjoy freshman year. Even in my senior year, you push me to be the best person I can be, even if it’s just by chatting for a few minutes in the hallway. In these conversations, I hear my dad singing You’ve Got a Friend in Me, a song of friendship and compassion.
Mr. Quirk, I love our lunch meetings as much as I said I would last year. During these lunches, I have not only learned the tactics of organizing and executing meetings, but also the importance of culture and care. You have guided me so that I may be fully observant of the needs of others, to speak with conviction yet remain gentle, and to be a powerful force without dominating the task at hand. In these meetings, I hear my dad singing You’ve Got to Stand for Something, a song of confidence authenticity.
Mr. Bentz, your consistent love and support for the Girls Crew team has provided me with an environment where I feel absolutely free of any restraints and am truly capable of doing anything as long as I strive for it. As young women, we are taught that we are not strong enough for certain activities, and through practices and lectures, you have entirely dispelled this idea and helped me feel confident as an athlete. During morning practices, though hard to believe, I hear my dad singing Fort Minor’s The Name, a song of strength and determination.
Now, Mr. Sughrue. Writing this speech as a whole was emotionally draining, but sitting down and writing your piece was by far the most painful. Not because it made me nostalgic of the last four years that you have made so spectacular, but because this is too close to a goodbye for me. A week before freshman year, I had an anxiety-induced asthma attack at preseason, but you ran with me behind the rest of the team. You’ve been running with me since. That day you impacted me, and continue to do so with every “Good morning, Lil, how are you?” You’ve also influenced me. You taught me that boys were not allowed to treat me poorly, should never make me cry, and that I am deserving of only respect from them. At 16, I had never heard this from anyone. You validated my feelings during a time when I was greatly conflicted about how I should be regarded by men. Mr. Sughrue, you taught me grace, love, and a standard of respect. You’ve also taught me a little bit of SAT Math, and for that I am forever grateful. Now, just a few months away from graduation, we are sprinting through the finish line as strong as ever. In the time I have been so lucky to have you in my life, I hear my dad singing Stand by Me, a song of trust and love.
I truly believe that when a life is lost, it is only to be found in another place, another time where it is needed to be sung at its loudest. I know in a few days, weeks, months, and even years, these same people and many more (The Mr. Beckers, Houcks, and Howlands) will have made another small but remarkable impact on my life. I will regret not being able to share those moments with you; but for today, in this very chapel, I hear the loudest lyrics of my dad’s song singing loud and clear: “I see trees of green and red roses too, I'll watch them bloom for me and you, And I think to myself, What a wonderful world.”