Dr. Hilary Thompson taught in the English Department at Acadia University when I was there. If people have a colour around them, Hilary's was all colours of the rainbow. She reflected joy--she emanated joy, a zest for living, a kindness to all, a delectable sense of humour.
She wasn't one of my professors in that I didn't take a course from her. But she was one of my teachers in that her constant positive attitude in the department was a joy to behold and to absorb. Occasionally we had tea together, or joined the department secretary (aptly named Joy) for that particular break, shared stories about cats and plants, laughed and chattered like friends do. I remember Hilary showing huge compassion to students, including to me when I was coping with being a master's student and a single parent. It used to delight us to see her coming off the elevator from teaching a class, carrying puppets or masks or other trappings that she used in her course on children's literature. Her office was festooned with these colourful, happy reflections of Hilary's passion for writing, reading, and teaching.
I learned of Hilary's illness only a couple of weeks ago, when I met her and her beloved husband Ray in the radiology department of the hospital. Preoccupied with the book I was reading and not so quick to focus when I look up, I didn't recognize her initially, until she spoke and smiled at me from her wheelchair. I was shocked when she told me of the brain tumour, but she faced it with far more grace and courage than many would. Including me, I'm sure.
It's somewhat ironic, somewhat apt, that I wasn't able to go to her memorial service on Saturday--because I was teaching a weekly workshop class in writing to a group of adults who want to develop their passion for writing.
Hilary, your light may be gone from the world, but the love of the word that you kindled in so many students over the years will blaze brightly on. Rest easy, dear teacher.
(photo from flickr, with thanks)