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I Teach by Example
by Elaine Sigal

I teach by example. I am a parent by example.  Children learn by example.
My aunt died. I loved this aunt. She was my youngest aunt and succumbed at only 79..an age that, since I am 61, is getting younger and younger. She was sick for a while, and yet rarely complained. She leaves three daughters.

My dilemma? I live 3,000 miles from where she lived and from where the funeral would be held. To go or not to go ..that is the question.

Why do we always feel compelled to be there for sad events and not so much so for the happy ones? Do we feel a bit of, whew, glad that is not me? Or do we really feel the need to say goodbye. In some religions it is considered a good deed or more to be at a funeral. But…3000 miles for a funeral that will be held within 24 hours of her death.? What of the meetings I had set? What of the plans that I had that all need to be cancelled? What of the cost of a same day ticket? What of the cost of a rental car, hotel or the other arrangements that need to be made?

What of it all? I’m on the plane as I write this..on my way to say goodbye to an aunt who was always kind to me. She was the aunt who rescued me when I would fall and skin my knees. She was the aunt who had children when I was excited to be a cousin. Related because of birth..she was my late father’s sister. Would she have picked me to be her niece? I don’t care. I am her niece. She always smiled at me, was so pleased when I wrote or called her, and for the past years, we emailed updates or funny stories.

So as I sit here amongst strangers flying over Nebraska, I think of her and smile and cry. Tomorrow, I will watch as a part of my life is placed in the ground and buried…I will cry and be sad that she will no longer be a part of my physical life. But..no one can take away my memories or the part of my being that she helped form. I will also share stories and tales with family who will be there. I will share with my children why I am here and why miles and inconvenience and time could not have kept me away.

I left the daily grind, the wet wash in the machine, my husband and my work responsibilites…I left my life behind for 2 days to remember her and cry with my family. The decision was not a difficult one to make; expensive in some ways but worth all the money, effort and time. I hopefully set an example for my children by going – isn’t that what being a parent and a teacher is all about?

Elaine received her BA from The College of New Jersey and her MA in English from Villanova University. She is licensed to teach English, Speech and Theater in two states. Elaine founded and ran a classroom based 'brick and mortar' educational company from 1995 - 2009. Elaine has significant experience matching learners to the appropriate educators and has a large available network in the educational arena. Elaine also taught English on the university level, created adult education courses, managed a credit recovery program, managed all areas of supplemental development, and established a 501c3. She has over 35 years of experience in the education field.

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