In Memoriam: Wyatt Pasley
I am part of the extended Galloway family. I am a Galloway alum, a Galloway parent, and a faculty spouse. Being part of Galloway has shaped me forever. And it might sound odd to say, but I know for a fact that I am a pastor because of Galloway. It’s not a religious school, in fact you might say it’s a proudly secular school. Mr. Galloway was a pastor, but he didn’t wear it on his sleeve. Instead, he allowed it to infuse everything about him. He believed that the universe was the source of infinite love and wisdom, all of which were to be shared with infectious exuberance. I did not know Wyatt Pasley; but I do know Galloway. You have shared stories with me, and have allowed me to listen in on some of your memories. So I take this moment as a gift, a privilege, to speak to my Galloway family here today. I have often said that we who are part of Galloway know that we don't quite fit in; and we are proud of that fact. So whether we have met before, we know each other through the spirit of our shared community.
What we do here today matters. What comes in the days, and weeks, and months, and even years ahead will be important, and it will be hard. Tears will come, anger will come, sadness and, yes, even laughter will come. But what matters today is gatherings such as this, where we consecrate our space together and cling to the things that will not come and go. We need to remember the things that will endure. What is Wyatt’s legacy? What is it that Mr. Pasley left to those of us who are still here? What are those seeds, perhaps just planted, that will continue to grow? What was it about Wyatt’s life that was holy and eternal, that was of the very essence of the love and wisdom of the universe?
All of you knew him better than I did. And you know the stories. I have been blessed as I have heard you share them, your memories of a passionate teacher with infectious curiosity who somehow seemed to take forever to grade his tests. And I hope you will continue to tell these stories to each other - not just today, but for a long time to come. These stories, these absurdly fantastical stories of entering the Chattahoochee and exiting the Gulf, of coffee mugs that looked like they had been coated in tar, of avoiding park rangers in forbidden waters, of mountain biking and climbing and longboarding, all of these stories are part of his legacy. Wyatt Pasley will indeed live on in the memories and stories you share and hold dear. In the telling, you piece together a life, a fragment at a time, into the wholeness that it deserves. And it is in the wholeness that we begin to see what it is that deserves to live on.
One of those strands for the ages, I think, is this: Actions you take today will have an impact for a long time to come. This is a truth that teachers probably know better than anyone. Students will return years later, sharing an experience that has long since faded from memory, but still managed to shape them and whom they have become: seeds of curiosity, words of well-placed wisdom. What I mean is I hope you can recognize what it is that Wyatt - that Mr. Pasley - has done which has had its impact on you. It could be as straightforward as inspiring a love of the outdoors, or as subtle as the very act of asking questions which leaves you with your own passion and curiosity. But for that legacy to last, I want to encourage you to explore it further: what will we do with the impact that we have received? How do we care for our planet? How do we engage the world as citizens? How do we treat one another? All of these things happen in small moments, but their ripples echo out for a long time to come. Actions we take today will have an impact for a long time to come.
The second strand, I think, is this: Value the struggle. Be dialed in for life. Embrace the truth that there are rarely easy answers. Success sure is nice. But failure is just as crucial, if not more so, because it gives us a chance to learn and grow. And it also brings with it the opportunity to know how much love and wisdom there is in the universe. It’s there for the taking: all we have to do is ask. Value the struggle.
Call it a vocational hazard, but I want to close my remarks with a few words from Scripture:
From the prophet Amos: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
From the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us run with perserverance the race that is set before us.”
May it be so. Amen.