Many years ago, I started teaching high school theology in a Catholic school in Florida. That first year, as was the case every year, I had the usual collection of students. A few stood out for good or bad reasons. One of those (for the good reasons) was a girl named Nancy Murphy. She sat in the front row, in the middle, was good natured and popular, but was also clearly cut from a different cloth from most of her classmates. She behaved impeccably, for one, was unfailingly attentive and would, at intervals, turn ever so slightly in her perch to give a mild evil eye to misbehaving classmates. A gem.
The next year, another Murphy appeared in my class. Erin - Nancy's younger sister. A little taller, a little looser, but also cut from the same, obviously wonderful cloth. Who had produced these girls? (And their brother, not one of my students, but evidently just as marvelous).
The answer came on my end of story. My son David, a student in elementary school, got a teacher. Mrs. Murphy was her name, and she was a wonder. I could never say enough of her as a teacher, and neither can David ("Mrs Murphy was awesome" he will still say today, years later). She also helped me out when I was in an incredibly tight spot - I had to be at my school far earlier than David's school began, and sooner even that before-school care started. Molly (that's her name) got to school at the crack of dawn and volunteered to let him hang out in her classroom. It was one of the nicest things anyone ever did for me - and when Katie came along, she did the same for her. For a couple of years, I returned the favor by taking her son Patrick to school with me, but I still can't help but feel that she did me the bigger favor, and I'm still grateful.
Fast forward through the next few years, and this is what you see: Molly and I becoming friends. Molly being diagnosed with cancer, first of the breast then bone. Both daughters getting married. Me moving away. And then, some terrible news - Nancy's young husband Michael, had been killed in a car accident, on his way back fto South Florida from taking Nancy and their very new baby to stay with Molly, recuperating from brain surgery.
Pain heaped upon pain. Who could endure it? I can't imagine.
Of course, the Murphy's have endured. They are, from a distance, the same wonderful, intensely supportive family they always have been, amazing witnesses to love and faith to all who know them. Really.
And now Nancy and Erin have started a business.
Nancy moved up to Lakeland and lives a block from her sister and a few blocks from her mom and dad. She wants to stay home with Emma (born just a few days after Joseph. Nothing like procreating at the same pace as your former students), so has started this business that sells homecrafted soaps, bath salts and bubbles, lotions, as well as baby slings and personalized stationary products. I received my first order from them today, and I can attest that it is, as their name says A Finer Thing. Please stop by their website and check out their products. I'm sure you'll find something wonderful for yourself or to give as a gift. And say hi to Nancy and Erin for me!