Friday, August 19, 2011

In Memory of Judy Godbee

"The principal may be in charge of the school, but the book keeper is the one who runs it"
                                                                                             -Anonymous (probably another book keeper)

Once again, you will have to bear with me as I use my blog for some personal therapy and (hopefully) as a source of comfort for the folks I work with.

When I came to Laing in 2004, the school was scrambling to hire a new book keeper.

The book keeper was someone that I would have to be dealing with quite a bit. Field trip forms, work orders, instrument purchases, instrument repairs, fundraiser requests, etc. would all be going through her.

In the band director world, book keepers get partial ownership of this, as well.

I had no idea what a monumental and important job this was, which eventually went to one Judy Pye Godbee. From the start, I had one very serious issue with her:

She wouldn't put up with my crap.

Oh don't get me wrong; she covered for me or corrected my mistakes NUMEROUS times. My newness to teaching and generally disorganized manner often times put things like "properly filed paper work" and "turning forms in on time" somewhere on my priority list between using the bathroom after 3rd period and tuning the 6th grade flutes.

Pictured:  A middle school flute player in it's natural form

It wasn't that I didn't care; I just had a million other things I needed to do. But after Judy fixed my incorrect forms or let me slide in my paperwork right at the deadline (or way after), I would definitely hear about it.

I didn't just get a dressing down, though (which I definitely got in spades). I also got a lesson in how to do things correctly and why it would make my life easier.

She would remind me that it made her job and my job much easier if I did things how and when I was supposed to. She would then finish by reminding me that "I'm fussing at ya because I love ya."

Does that mean that I come out from under here, now?

Over the years, I finally began to catch on; Judy was right.  I'm still not as adept at prompt paperwork as I should be, but I was getting better.

I still remember one glorious day when I turned in a form on time and Judy said "Ya see, you do things the right way. The way you did this makes it much easier than some of these other terrible forms I'm getting."

It felt like I had won the Olympics.

I also began to discover that Judy was a strong ally when it came to getting what you wanted. Our school district is fairly huge, so paperwork can often times get lost in the shuffle or put on the back burner based on perceived priority.

Like many people, Judy had little patience for bureaucracy. Unlike most people, however, Judy didn't begin a cycle of whining and complaining followed by sad defeat. Instead, she viciously and relentlessly attacked it.

Pictured:  Judy in her younger days, about 
to deal with some stalled purchase orders

If I got something to Judy on time that needed to go to the main office, Judy would continuously follow up on it if there was any type of delay. Once I turned in a form to Judy, I had no doubt in my mind that she would get it through the proper channels to whomever it needed to get to.

I would often find myself CCed on multiple emails that Judy had sent to various district offices, asking about the status of my requests and when we could expect a timely answer.

This was another area where Judy shined; despite her taskmaster reputation, Judy knew how to talk to the people that controlled where your documentation and your money went. This was a skill that I had not quite mastered in my early years of teaching.

I got your 'requisition number' right here!

Despite being the person that dealt with everyone's least favorite part of the job (paperwork), Judy somehow managed to form a warm personal connection with all of us. She would laugh with us about our daily trials and tribulations, ask about our lives and families, and constantly remind us that she was praying for us.

Once when I had lost something very important, Judy told me that she was praying for me to find it and asked St. Anthony, the saint of finding lost articles, to help me.

After we talked, I quickly (like, way too quickly) found what I was looking for.

Wait...Judy Godbee made the request?
Cancel all my other appointments!

When my grandmother died last year, Judy was one of the first people to offer me condolences. Whenever I was upset, sick, or just overwhelmed some stupid issue, Judy would be one of the first folks that would show the most heartfelt concern and always remind me that she was praying for me.

I know that God doesn't play favorites with His love. But having someone with as strong a faith as Judy's somehow made me feel that I had a very powerful prayer in my behalf to help with the road ahead.

Judy prayed for the seed in this pot of soil to grow into a plant...
...5 minutes before this picture was taken.

Today before third period, we were supposed to have an assembly. A fellow teacher, Carolyn, came down to tell me that it had been canceled.

"Judy was killed in a car wreck this morning," she said.

With students coming into the room, there was really no time to grieve. In fact, I don't think I've really been able to start since my brain still can't process this. Judy had been here since I started my teaching career; I had just talked to her a few days ago.  

It's hard to find a place to put your anger and heart ache at a time like this. I spent a lot of time after school today staring in stunned silence; I was not only devastated that my friend is gone, but I also worried how we'd make it without her.

At that point, I realized that Judy would tell me that it's going to be okay, say a prayer for me, and then tell me to snap the heck out of it.  

She did a better job guiding and training me to be efficient than to need her holding my hand all the time to get things done.

Judy, I would tell you to rest in peace, but I know that it's not possible. I'm sure that once you got to heaven, God put you to work immediately in heaven's front office, counting soul records and telling Gabriel to stop messing around on his trumpet and get his messages done.

And since you're up there (and you've always had a way of getting the top brass's ear), please ask God to send us some extra support and care; we miss you so much and we weren't ready to have to say goodbye.

Also, I'm too upset to do this right now (and I need to at some point), but please tell him that even though you were gone too soon, we thank Him for giving us an amazing book keeper, friend, and guardian angel in the front office for the last 7 years.

My friend, Laing parent Vanessa Adams, said that when she heard the thunder tonight, she knew that it was you cracking your whip, getting things in heaven organized and getting those angels in line. I think she's right.  Go get 'em, Judy.

Also, Lord please make sure she has her secret stash of Canada Dry 
ginger ale always restocked; it makes life easier on everyone.