Massapequa schools suffered a tremendous loss recently. Barbara Werner passed away. She had been a guidance counselor at Berner Middle School. Let me rephrase that because she was more than just a guidance counselor. She was an amazing person with a beautiful heart, and she touched all around her in a loving and supportive way. I have to admit that I had never really considered the role of a guidance counselor before her.
I met Mrs. Werner many few years ago. I was enjoying a day off and a very lazy morning, so lazy that I was doing what I called the Dairy Barn/pajama run when my phone rang. It was the first time I had spoken to Mrs. Werner and I expected a typical the ELA scores are in kind of phone call. Instead she told me of an emergency situation, emergency enough that I went to the school in my pajamas. I will never forget standing in a stranger’s office in fuzzy pajamas and bed hair extending my hand as if that were perfectly normal and I’ve always appreciated the warmth in which she greeted me despite what I must have looked like.
From that day on it seemed as if Mrs. Werner’s job was to be on the phone with me. Not a day went by that we didn’t speak and usually it was several times a day. There was no matter that was too trivial. Most of us couldn’t imagine sharing a personal family crisis with a stranger. I couldn’t imagine going through that difficult time without her.
Fast forward a few years and she became my daughter’s guidance counselor, and though our situation had been resolved, she became a steady part of my daughter’s life. She called my daughter down to her office to talk and made sure that my daughter knew she was there if she needed anything at all. That alone would have been enough but she continued to reach out to both my daughter and me just to check in. There are no words that could ever express the ways she touched my heart.
As parents we assume that everyone sees in our kids what we see or that everyone loves our kids as much as we love them. I loved Mrs. Werner for just how much she loved my kids and for how effortlessly she became a meaningful part of our lives.
Mrs. Werner had been on my mind recently. My daughter went off to high school and was having trouble adjusting. She went to her guidance counselor who couldn’t seem to find the time for her. It was a startling contrast to Mrs. Werner. She had set the bar so high that I had to wonder if this new guidance counselor was doing something wrong or if Mrs. Werner was really that wonderful. She really was that wonderful.
She’s been on my mind and I’ve been meaning to call her or drop her a note letting her know how special she was. I wanted her to know about my daughter’s experience and give her the credit she deserved for being such a wonderful guidance counselor that my daughter had the expectation her next one would be just as wonderful. I meant to call or drop a note but then life gets in the way. Someone forgets their lunch money or the sink is leaking and the next thing you know its days later and the phone call doesn’t get made and the note doesn’t get dropped. And then the next thing you hear is that she’s gone and instead of notes and calls all you can do is offer prayers to her family.
Sometimes there are people who come into our lives and touch us in ways that are especially meaningful. Barbara Werner was one of those people. For many years we laughed about my pajamas and bed hair but I will never forget walking into a stranger’s office one morning and knowing by the time I walked out that I had met someone who would become a part of my family. She was a gift that all of us in the Massapequa School District were lucky enough to have and feel especially blessed to have known her.