Las Quatro Harwoods


Every now and then a friend comes along out of nowhere…

In the life we’ve chosen as international educators we know friends will come and go with the hiring cycle.  But, we also know there’s a really good chance that paths will cross again. Four of our buddies from Ghana are coming to Amman next year after saying goodbye to them just a year ago.  I recently had dinner with a friend in London that I met in Miami who now teaches next to my friend I met in Kenya while she worked in the Congo. Yeh, that’s how it works. So goodbyes are really just, ‘see you laters’.

But this week, I didn’t even get to say goodbye to my new best friend. He died suddenly just before school and the last few days have felt like the walls came crumbling down.

Joel always had a smile to share, a story to tell, and always had time to talk. I wish I’d taken more of it. Isn’t that how it always is though? I’m doing my best to just be thankful for the time I had with the guy that convinced me to help coach water polo even though I had never played, managed to always get a laugh in a meeting, and somehow reminded me how important it is to just be. But its hard.

The life was sucked out of our middle school for a couple of days as the kids mourned and struggled to make sense of it all.  They organized themselves to all wear black the next day and his desk was covered in flowers before eight o’clock. It was the most exhausting two days of school I’ve ever had.  But, it was also somehow beautiful as the kids opened their hearts for his family and for each other. Lots of tears. Lots of questions and lots of hugs.

We won’t get to go on a hike together in the spring flowers with our kids. We never got to play music together and that surf trip we were planning…

But I’m a better person from the time Joel James gave me and I somehow think he’d be pissed if he knew I was moping around. So, yesterday I bought some Golden soap in his honor and today I’ll start thinking about his robotics class I’m taking over and imagine it as one more gift from him. I’ll remind myself to just be me, share my smile and love the ones around me.

One love my friend

This entry was published on February 17, 2019 at 1:31 pm and is filed under family. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Joel

  1. You have always understood what being a good friend was about. I imagine he’s smiling because he was aware of that fact too.

  2. matt gamache on said:

    Hi Ryan,
    My name is Matt Gamache and I had the privilege to go on many surf trips with our good friend Joel James. If you had had the chance to surf with him you would have returned home later then you had thought as he always stayed out longer than everyone. My family and I were neighbors with Joel and Honor while they lived and worked in the Dominican Republic. We are crushed with Joel’s sudden passing. We now live and work in Dubai and we almost visited over Thanksgiving.

    I want to thank you for posting the vignette about the days after Joel’s death. The image of his desk covered in flowers and student’s responses are nice to have during this time.

    I was also thinking that we could share contacts and try to bring the two international teaching communities they were apart of together.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Be well…

    • Hi Matt. I have no doubt a surf trip with Joel would have been epic and I would have learned a thing or two from him. If you decide to visit Amman, it would be great to meet. And yes, let’s figure out a way to share contacts.

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