Lynette Williamson, a high school English teacher from Monte Rio, California, died March 18 after a year-and-a-half-long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She was 55.
The beloved instructor left behind a 30-plus-year career in English tutelage at Analy High School in Sebastapol, where she also led the debate team, reports The Press Democrat.
And before her death, Williamson used her only remaining functioning finger — the thumb on her non-dominant hand, typing three words per minute — to craft a beautiful essay for Salon.com about her how she felt inspired by some of her favorite written works during her experience with the nerve disease.
“I strove to focus on the moments of the day when I was warmed by a kind word or an image of natural beauty. When I did pause to appreciate these instances, I’d hear the words ‘This one is warmed . . .’ ” she wrote, explaining that the line was from the Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered by Toni Morrison in 1993.
“With my mobility limited and my voice diminished, I would often lie in bed and find myself bothered by ridiculous things: a shriveled leaf on a house plant or a crooked lampshade. When someone entered the room to visit, I would seek a way to ask them to correct the irritant. But if they plucked the wrong leaf or didn’t understand me at all, I would usually realize the foolishness of wasting energy on getting my way and somewhere from the recesses of my memory be reminded, ‘Do not seek to be master of all . . . ‘ ”
“I do hear one of Hamlet’s less-famous lines spoken after most of the chaos in the play subsidies: ‘Let be,’ ” she shared. “Resonating in those two words is Hamlet’s acceptance: ‘There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow.’ I pray that I may soon die accepting this lesson that’s taken a lifetime to learn.”
During the end of her life, The Press Democrat notes that Williamson carried a card that identified herself as having ALS, with a message on the back reading, “I’m smarter than I sound. If you can’t understand me, give me pen and paper.”
Aside from her husband, two children, sister and mother, The Press Democrat reports that Williamson requested having both Morrison and Don DeLillo, her two favorite authors, listed as survivors in her obituary.
“She was close to almost everyone who met her. Some of us were lucky enough to know her beyond the classroom,” Williamson’s fellow English teacher Patty Ernsberger Pifer told The Press Democrat.
“Even in the most crowded, sweaty room with hundreds of annoying teenagers and parents, she’d be standing there and would look like she was in a bubble of comfort, totally Zen,” 21-year-old Marie “Mimi” Pinna, a 2014 graduate of Analy High, told The Press Democrat.
Added 2010 graduate Nate Rosen to the outlet, “The way she handled kids like myself, she used a beautiful blend of sarcasm and humor to connect with us.”
A YouCaring fundraiser has been set up in Williamson’s name to help with the family’s expenses.