“That they might have joy column” by Jacki Wood
In “Ulysses,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote:
“I cannot rest from travel…
“Much have I seen and known; cities of men
“And manners, climates, councils, governments…
“I am a part of all that I have met.”
This is one of my favorite passages ever written, because like Tennyson, I feel I am a part of all I have met.
I’d like to rewind the clock back to August 2006 when I first started here at the Nodaway News Leader and share a little about those I’ve met…
My first feature story came a couple of months into the job: “Graham Lions Club marks 50 years of frying fish.” I will never forget all of those men working in the kitchen, frying chicken and fish. And the stories they told. And how I felt welcomed there. There’s something special about a small town and its people.
A little over a year later, the December 2007 ice storm hit. I slid all over town, taking photos of the damage and of people helping one another. I also spent some time at the Red Cross shelter at the Maryville Community Center. I met a lot of amazing people and I wrote about a woman I met named Grace: “She helped care for an elderly woman from her community, something I learned she does on a daily basis, and being at the shelter was no different. In the quiet moments, when no one was aware, I saw her for who she really was. A strong-willed woman, she had a coarse voice, and yet she was so full of patience and love for her friend. I will forever be changed because of Grace.”
In the fall of 2009, South Nodaway Elementary was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School for academic achievement. Since I covered the district, I attended a special community ceremony, but I also had this crazy idea to do a feature story on the principal, Darbi Bauman, since I had come to learn that Mrs. B, as she is known by her students, was the heart of that school.
I knew, though, that the humble principal would never agree to it, so I did it in secret. Everyone had an amazing story about Mrs. B. And everyone wanted to be involved — current students, former students, her staff, community members. The result was “Behind the blue ribbon lies the extraordinary, remarkably uncommon… Mrs. B.”
Darbi told me earlier this month she still hadn’t forgiven me. It’s a story I will never forget. And she is someone who I now call a friend.
In December 2010, I spoke to some local high school students for Issues and Answers where I asked them about their goals for the new year. Their responses were typical teenage goals like getting their driver’s licenses or doing well in sports. One girl, however, looked at me, smiled casually and said, “Enjoy it.”
I loved it. And I wrote a column about finding joy in the journey because of her. I don’t remember her name but I will never forget her simple yet wise statement.
During the summer of 2011, I did a couple of “a day in the life” stories. I met dairy farmer, Richard Groves, who has lived on the same land his entire life near Graham. He taught me a lot that day, not just about cows and milk, but about doing what you love. He said, “It’s a hard life, but it’s a good life.” We sometimes get overwhelmed with how hard life can be that we forget how blessed we truly are.
A couple of months later, I covered the fire at the Third and Main building in downtown Maryville. I later wrote about an experience I had during those early morning hours:
“I walked out of the Nodaway News Leader office just as the morning light showed the harsh reality of the downtown fire earlier this month. I’d already been out to take pictures when it was still dark, so I was heading out to take a few more when I saw a weary Dave Weigel walking toward me. His business had been completely destroyed. And typical Dave, he seemed almost upbeat about forging ahead.”
I’ve seen that same resiliency and optimism in many I’ve met in Nodaway County.
Last summer, I wrote a “fun and games” series and had the privilege of interviewing several of my former teachers for this story: “Bridge Club builds relationships for over 40 years.” I spent an hour listening to them laugh as they shared stories. One from their group, Marj Hansen, died last week, too young, from cancer. The community will miss her greatly.
Earlier this year, I was tasked with sharing the most difficult story I’ve ever had to write. It was a story about hospice called “Refracted: seeing life in a different light.”
“His spirit is willing but his body is weak. Diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in August, Maryville resident Gus Rischer was told he had up to six months to live. ‘I’m getting near the end of my road,’ the soft-spoken 83-year-old said.”
Gus has since passed, but his story taught me so much about living life and facing death with grace.
There are hundreds more stories like these. Hundreds more I’ve met, or previous relationships I’ve renewed, who have become a part of me.
I’m a part of school administrators, teachers, secretaries and students; a part of city leaders and business owners; a part of organization volunteers and community leaders.
I am a part of Nodaway County.
And now, well, now the time has come. The time to bid farewell. This is my last week with the paper.
As Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
I am sad to be leaving. It’s been an incredible seven years here. However, all things must end. And so it is with my time here.
Thank you all for helping me over the years, for teaching me and helping me to grow.
I am indeed a part of all that I have met.