Mrs. Ostgaard taught me something new today

It’s strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man’s mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just be something you’ve seen, or something you’ve heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.
— Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows

Today I had the honor and privilege to attend a beautiful memorial for a teacher who taught not just one of our boys but both of them.

It’s been 11 years since Austin had Mrs. Ostgaard for his 5th grade teacher and it’s been 7 years since Dylan had her for his 5th and final year of elementary school.  She didn’t have cancer with Austin and by the time it was Dylan’s turn, she had been diagnosed and like the warrior she was, she had beat it and was in remission.  Do you know how glad I was that my second born son would have the privilege to have her as his teacher too?  I’m a little bit shy in general so I never really had the courage to express my gratitude in person to Mrs. Ostgaard and when my mother-n-law stopped by one morning a couple of weeks ago to tell me that Mrs. Ostgaard was on hospice, we prayed together for Mrs. O and yes, the tears rolled down my cheeks.  “Why Mrs. Ostgaard, why?” We talked about writing her a letter so she would be able to know the impact she had on our lives, on our kids lives but little did we know at the time, she was already gone.  She went to be with the Lord on Mothers Day.  Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to write her a letter when she was still here on earth, I can do it now.  

Dear Mrs. Ostgaard, 

I first want to tell you that when my boys were in elementary school I was the kind of mom who prayed to God that He would give my kids the exact teacher they needed.   I was never the kind of mom to go to the principal and try and get the teacher I thought would be good for my kids.  I trusted that who they received would be exactly who they needed.  Little did I know that when Austin my first born got you for his 5th grade teacher that you would impact his life from that year on.  You see that particular year you had a couple of kids with the name Austin.  You naturally decided to give my Austin a nick name and you called him “Ace”  I’m pretty sure you knew exactly what you were doing too because my son had low self esteem.  He was very bright and could talk to just about any adult but he didn’t exactly mesh well with the majority of kids his same age,  he wasn’t the most coordinated and he was a little chunky and kids kind of made fun of him but when you gave him that name, it changed so many things.  He held his head a little higher and it made him feel special.  You gave him value and not just you but the other kids began to pick up on it and even the roughest kid at school went on to call him Ace in middle school and was always very kind to the little outsider. 

I remember Ace’s year was my first experience with your tradition of apple pie.  Yes, I couldn’t believe you were going to teach all of 5th grade how to bake a homemade from scratch apple pie!

When you told me you would be reading “Where the Red Fern Grows” to your class.  I was so excited to know you would be reading that book to the kids because it was my grandpa’s most favorite book and he had passed before Ace was born.  I remember asking you, “How do you read that book to your kids without crying at the end?”  and you simply said, “I do cry, every single time, I cry!”  That’s when I really knew you were the real deal.  

I still have the paper mache bowl that you taught Ace to make and submit to the fair. I’m super sentimental. It holds my colored pens.  

 Four years later my second born son got you for his 5th grade teacher and I was so happy, I wanted Dylan to be able to get to know you how Ace got to know you too and I just had this feeling that you were especially made to be a teacher for boys.  Maybe I’m wrong but it was just this vibe you put off that boys were special, that while some teachers complained that boys could be a little rowdy or unruly, you seemed to “get them”  I had heard you had cancer and I could see this time around you used a cane and had a little bit of a limp but again I was so shy, I was nervous to ask but really just so you know what I wanted to do was hug you tight and tell you how glad I was that you made it, that you were still here to teach my second born son.  Again, I didn’t do that.  Kind of like the quote I opened this up with, it is pretty true how memories can come fresh again when we have heard or seen something that brings them back to life.  That’s what your memorial did for me today.  It just flooded my mind and heart with all those awesome memories.  But it also taught me a lesson, it taught me today that even if I’m a little shy I choose not to let that stand in my way any longer.  Next time I see someone that I want to hug or tell them how grateful I am for them, I’m just going to do it.  I promise I will because I’m pretty sure that’s what you would do.   I also want to thank you for walking in the light of Jesus, that your love for Jesus was passed on to my children and even though they went to a public school, they had a lovely Christian example right before their very eyes each day while they were in your class.  That’s invaluable.  Thank you Mrs. Osgaard, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  You made such a big difference in our lives. We always, always think of you when we crank out the best apple pie ever.  Our recipe is tattered and has butter stains, it’s well used and just like when I see roses I think of grandpa, when we make that apple pie or even have a slice from someplace else, we will think of you and say a little prayer of gratitude.  

Love Tracie, Ace and Dylan's Mom